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JH (Wur>, 


The Living Library 


meserve no. 26. A photograph by Alexander 
Hesler made in Springfield on June 3, i860. 


Life of Lincoln 










The Living Library 

is published by the world publishing company 

22 j i West noth Street • Cleveland 2 • Ohio 



Photograph of Lincoln, by Alexander hesler, 

june 3, i860 Frontispiece 

Cooper Institute Portrait of Lincoln facing page 


Lincoln's Home in Springfield 116 
Inaugural Photograph of Lincoln 


Brady profile of Lincoln February 9, 1864 254 
Photograph of Lincoln 


Last Photograph of Lincoln Made in Life 


William H. Herndon 464 

The photographs which illustrate this book are from 
the Collection of Frederick Hill Meserve. The origi- 
nal photographs, unretouched, have been copied with 
absolute fidelity. The Publisher acknowledges with 
thanks the cooperation and courtesy of Mr. Meserve 
in granting permission to reproduce these photographs. 



since the tragic death of Abraham Lincoln. The prejudice 
and bitterness with which he was assailed have disappeared 
from the minds of men, and the world is now beginning 
to view him as a great historical character. Those who 
knew and walked with him are gradually passing away, 
and ere long the last man who ever heard his voice or 
grasped his hand will have gone from earth. With a view 
to throwing a light on some attributes of Lincoln's char- 
acter heretofore obscure, and thus contributing to the great 
fund of history which goes down to posterity, these vol- 
umes are given to the world. 

If Mr. Lincoln is destined to fill that exalted station in 
history or attain that high rank in the estimation of the 
coming generations which has been predicted of him, it is 
alike just to his memory and the proper legacy of man- 
kind that the whole truth concerning him should be known. 
If the story of his life is truthfully and courageously told 
— nothing colored or suppressed; nothing false either 
written or suggested — the reader will see and feel the 
presence of the living man. He will, in fact, live with 
him and be moved to think and act with him. If, on the 
other hand, the story is colored or the facts in any degree 
suppressed, the reader will be not only misled, but im- 
posed upon as well. At last the truth will come, and no 
man need hope to evade it. 

"There is but one true history in the world," said one 
of Lincoln's closest friends to whom I confided the project 
of writing a history of his life several years ago, "and 
that is the Bible. It is often said of the old characters 


portrayed there that they were bad men. They are con- 
trasted with other characters in history, and much to the 
detriment of the old worthies. The reason is, that the 
Biblical historian told the whole truth — the inner life. 
The heart and secret acts are brought to light and faith- 
fully photographed. In other histories virtues are per- 
petuated and vices concealed. If the life of King David 
had been written by an ordinary historian the affair of 
Uriah would at most have been a quashed indictment with 
a denial of all the substantial facts. You should not for- 
get there is a skeleton in every house. The finest character 
dug out thoroughly, photographed honestly, and judged 
by that standard of morality or excellence which we exact 
for other men is never perfect. Some men are cold, some 
lewd, some dishonest, some cruel, and many a combi- 
nation of all. The trail of the serpent is over them all ! 
Excellence consists, not in the absence of these attributes, 
but in the degree in which they are redeemed by the virtues 
and graces of life. Lincoln's character will, I am certain, 
bear close scrutiny. I am not afraid of you in this direc- 
tion. Don't let anything deter you from digging to the 
bottom; yet don't forget that if Lincoln had some faults, 
Washington had more — few men have less. In drawing 
the portrait tell the world what the skeleton was with Lin- 
coln. What gave him that peculiar melancholy? What 
cancer had he inside ?" 

Some persons will doubtless object to the narration of 
certain facts which appear here for the first time, and 
which they contend should have been consigned to the 
tomb. Their pretense is that no good can come from such 
ghastly exposures. To such over-sensitive souls, if any 
such exist, my answer is that these facts are indispensable 
to a full knowledge of Mr. Lincoln in all the walks of life. 
In order properly to comprehend him and the stirring, 
bloody times in which he lived, and in which he played 
such an important part, we must have all the facts — we 
must be prepared to take him as he was. 

In determining Lincoln's title to greatness we must not 
only keep in mind the times in which he lived, but we must, 


to a certain extent, measure him with other men. Many 
of our great men and our statesmen, it is true, have been 
self-made, rising gradually through struggles to the top- 
most round of the ladder ; but Lincoln rose from a lower 
depth than any of them — from a stagnant, putrid pool, like 
the gas which, set on fire by its own energy and self- 
combustible nature, rises in jets, blazing, clear, and bright. 
I should be remiss in my duty if I did not throw the light 
on this part of the picture, so that the world may realize 
what marvelous contrast one phase of his life presents to 

The purpose of these volumes is to narrate facts, avoid- 
ing as much as possible any expression of opinion, and 
leaving the reader to form his own conclusions. Use has 
been made of the views and recollections of other per- 
sons, but only those known to be truthful and trust- 
worthy. A thread of the narrative of Lincoln's life runs 
through the work, but an especial feature is an analysis of 
the man and a portrayal of his attributes and characteristics. 
The attempt to delineate his qualities, his nature and its 
manifestations, may occasion frequent repetitions of fact, 
but if truthfully done this can only augment the store of 
matter from which posterity is to learn what manner of 
man he was. 

The object of this work is to deal with Mr. Lincoln 
individually and domestically; as lawyer, as citizen, as 
statesman. Especial attention is given to the history of his 
youth and early manhood ; and while dwelling on this por- 
tion of his life the liberty is taken to insert many things 
that would be omitted or suppressed in other places, where 
the cast-iron rules that govern magazine writing are 
allowed to prevail. Thus much is stated in advance, so 
that no one need be disappointed in the scope and extent 
of the work. The endeavor is to keep Lincoln in sight all 
the time ; to cling close to his side all the way through — 
leaving to others the more comprehensive task of writing a 
history of his times. I have no theory of his life to 
establish or destroy. Mr. Lincoln was my warm, devoted 
friend. I always loved him, and I revere his name to this 


day. My purpose to tell the truth about him need occasion 
no apprehension ; for I know that "God's naked truth," as 
Carlyle puts it, can never injure the fame of Abraham 
Lincoln. It will stand that or any other test, and at last 
untarnished will reach the loftiest niche in American his- 

My long personal association with Mr. Lincoln gave me 
special facilities in the direction of obtaining materials for 
these volumes. Such were our relations during all that 
portion of his life when he was rising to distinction, that I 
had only to exercise a moderate vigilance in order to gather 
and preserve the real data of his personal career. Being 
strongly drawn to the man, and believing in his destiny, I 
was not unobservant or careless in this respect. It thus 
happened that I became the personal depositary of the 
larger part of the most valuable Lincolniana in existence. 
Out of this store the major portion of the materials of the 
following volumes has been drawn. I take this, my first 
general opportunity, to return thanks to the scores of friends 
in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and elsewhere for the infor- 
mation they have so generously furnished and the favors 
they have so kindly extended me. Their names are too 
numerous for separate mention, but the recompense of 
each one will be the consciousness of having contributed 
a share towards a true history of the "first American." 

Over twenty years ago I began this book ; but an active 
life at the bar has caused me to postpone the work of 
composition, until, now, being somewhat advanced in years, 
I find myself unable to carry out the undertaking. Within 
the past three years I have been assisted in the preparation 
of the book by Mr. Jesse W. Weik, of Greencastle, Ind., 
whose industry, patience, and literary zeal have not only 
lessened my labors, but have secured for him the appro- 
bation of Lincoln's friends and admirers. Mr. Weik has 
by his personal investigation greatly enlarged our common 
treasure of facts and information. He has for several 
years been indefatigable in exploring the course of Lin- 
coln's life. In no particular has he been satisfied with any- 
thing taken at second hand. He has visited — as I also did 


in 1865 — Lincoln's birthplace in Kentucky, his early homes 
in Indiana and Illinois, and together, so to speak, he and 
I have followed our hero continuously and attentively till 
he left Springfield in 1861 to be inaugurated President. 
We have retained the original MSS. in all cases, and they 
have never been out of our hands. In relating facts there- 
fore, we refer to them in most cases, rather than to the 
statements of other biographers. 

This brief preliminary statement is made so that pos- 
terity, in so far as posterity may be interested in the sub- 
ject, may know that the vital matter of this narrative has 
been deduced directly from the consciousness, reminis- 
cences, and collected data of 

William H. Herndon. 

Springfield, III., 

November 1, 1888. 

D I T O R ' S NO 


tion of Herndon's Lincoln. In order to minimize foot- 
notes, I have inserted my own corrections and additions 
in the text wherever possible, enclosing them in brackets. 
For the same reason I have worked the author's footnotes 
into the text whenever they admitted of such treatment. 
This procedure has made necessary the modification of 
an occasional word or two, but otherwise the original text 
remains unchanged. Unless otherwise marked, all foot- 
notes in this edition are my own. 

Herndon described his Life of Lincoln as "a limited 
one — kind of subjective — inner life, with a mere thread 
of history running along." At times I have thought it 
advisable, in the interest of a better understanding of 
Lincoln's character, to supplement this mere thread; but 
for the most part the incorporation of additional material 
has been governed by the author's original purpose. 

I am under a heavy obligation to many friends. The 
advice and encouragement of Worthington C. Ford, Direc- 
tor of the European Mission, Library of Congress, have 
been most valuable, and I have profited greatly from the 
suggestions of Logan Hay and Jacob Thompson of Spring- 
field, Oliver R. Barrett and Henry Horner of Chicago, 
and Marjorie Brown Wright of Pasadena. I am indebted 
to the Abraham Lincoln Association, the Illinois State 
Historical Library, the Henry E. Huntington Library and 
the Massachusetts Historical Society for many favors. 

Paul M. Angle. 



Herndon's Lincoln. Although a series of lectures and 
newspaper articles, as well as an extensive correspondence, 
had familiarized many with the views of its author, the 
appearance of the book was marked by an outburst of criti- 
cism. By implication — and often directly — Herndon was 
called an ingrate, a liar and a fool. Defenders replied 
that he was a conscientious recorder of the truth. Sweep- 
ing condemnation was opposed by sweeping approval. 

The controversy continues today, although in less acri- 
monious manner. To large numbers Herndon's mere state- 
ment is ample authority; to others it is only a reason for 
suspicion. Few have seemed to realize that he might not 
be invariably right nor invariably wrong, and that a knowl- 
edge of his own life story would, in all probability, enable 
one to distinguish between the true and the doubtful in his 
book. Herndon saw Lincoln, as it were, through the glass 
of his own personality. An examination of that glass — 
that personality — with reference to its imperfections and 
blind spots as well as its excellencies, is indispensable. 
Only thus can the degree of fidelity to truth in Herndon's 
Lincoln be determined. 


In the spring of 1821 Archer G. Herndon brought his 
small family to Sangamon County, settling five miles north- 
east of the infant village of Springfield. For five years 
he farmed, and then, when its selection as county seat 
seemed to assure the town a future, he decided to make it his 


home. There he erected the "Indian Queen," Springfield's 
first tavern, and dispensed a generous hospitality which 
travelers remembered long after the crude accommodations 
were forgotten. Archer G. Herndon was, in fact, a man 
to be noticed. Intensely loyal in his friendships, violent in 
his hates, not too circumspect in manner or morals, he 
soon became one of the prominent figures of the frontier 
town. An ardent Democrat in politics, he represented San- 
gamon County in the legislature, and later became Receiver 
of Public Moneys at the Springfield Land Office. His 
business ventures — the "Indian Queen," storekeeping and 
stock-breeding — earned him prosperity beyond the average. 

While the elder Herndon was thus establishing himself 
his oldest son, William Henry, born in Green County, 
Kentucky, December 28, 1818, was receiving an education 
better than that which most boys in the town enjoyed. 
Public schools, of course, did not exist, but young Herndon 
attended several private schools of good quality; so that, 
by 1837, he was ready to enter Illinois College in the 
nearby town of Jacksonville. 

His college career, however, was destined to be short. 
Founded and administered by New Englanders, Illinois 
College was a center of abolition sentiment. When, during 
Herndon's first year, the anti-slavery activities of Elijah 
P. Lovejoy of Alton resulted in his death, faculty and 
students joined in bitter denunciation of the outrage. Sus- 
pecting his son's sympathy with the attitude which prevailed 
at the college, the elder Herndon, himself friendly to the 
institution of slavery, and unwilling to have any share in 
the education of "a damned Abolitionist pup," ordered him 
to withdraw and return to Springfield. 

The episode had two important consequences. In the 
first place, William H. Herndon was from that time thence 
an abolitionist. Writing later of his withdrawal from 
college he commented, "But it was too late. My soul had 
absorbed too much of what my father believed was rank 
poison." The Lovejoy murder filled him with "despera- 
tion." Though he acted with the Whig party until 1853, 


after 1837 the abolition of slavery was his primary political 

In the second place, his father's action threw him for 
the first time into close contact with Lincoln. Father and 
son had too many similar qualities of temperament for 
the relation between them to be continually amicable. Both 
were intense in their likes and dislikes, both impetuous, 
and both — at times — loved liquor too well. The Love joy 
episode caused a definite break between them. Young 
Herndon left home. Before entering college he had 
clerked in the store of Joshua F. Speed, and now he 
returned to that occupation. He made his home in a room 
above the store, along with Speed, Charles R. Hurst and 

This was not, however, his first contact with his future 
partner. That had occurred five years earlier, when 
Springfield and the neighboring towns were thrilled by the 
sight of the first steamboat to ascend the Sangamon River, 
the Talisman. Lincoln and several others, armed with 
long-handled axes, had gone down the river to meet the 
boat at Beardstown and clear the stream of overhanging 
boughs. At New Salem they were joined by a number of 
curious, excited boys on horseback who followed the craft 
along the river bank. Among them was Herndon. "I 
remember the occasion well, for two reasons," he wrote. 
"It was my first sight of a steamboat, and also the first 
time I ever saw Mr. Lincoln — although I never became 
acquainted with him till his second race for the Legislature 
in 1834." 

Herndon had relatives at New Salem, and consequently 
saw Lincoln frequently. It was not until the latter's 
removal to Springfield, however, that any degree of inti- 
macy developed between the two men. "There was some- 
thing in his tall and angular frame, his ill-fitting garments, 
honest face, and lively humor that imprinted his indi- 
viduality on my affection and regard," said Herndon of 
Lincoln. In truth, the young lawyer and the clerk saw 
much of each other. In addition to sharing the same room, 


they both belonged to a group which frequently met to en- 
tertain each other with original compositions, more often 
than not bordering on the salacious. They were also mem- 
bers of the Young Men's Lyceum, a more pretentious 
organization whose purpose was the edification of the 
audience as well as the amusement of the participants. 

Herndon continued to clerk for Speed until 1842, when 
he entered the office of Logan and Lincoln as a student. 
Upon the dissolution of that firm in the autumn of 1844 
Lincoln invited him to become his own partner, in spite 
of the fact that he had not yet received a license to practice. 
Thus was formed a legal association which continued 
actively for sixteen years, and lasted nominally until 
Lincoln's death. 

More than one author has written contemptuously of 
Herndon as a lawyer, implying that he was almost dead 
weight to his partner. The facts do not warrant this con- 
clusion. In the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court of 
Illinois are preserved the journals of the court for the 
years of the Lincoln-Herndon partnership. These jour- 
nals, carefully kept, generally give the names of the attor- 
neys who made the arguments in each case before the 
court, and from them one learns that Herndon bore a 
full share of the firm's important work. The two men 
seem to have divided the labor of the practice between 
them. During the six months when Lincoln was on the 
circuit, Herndon remained in Springfield, carrying on the 
routine of the office, trying cases in the justices' courts, 
and preparing for the next term of the circuit court. When 
the circuit court was in session, the two partners usually 
tried cases separately. A similar division held in their 
work before the Supreme Court, while Lincoln handled 
the bulk of the litigation in the United States Court 
himself, frequently attending sessions in Chicago as well 
as Springfield. 

Charles S. Zane, who practiced with Herndon after 
Lincoln's inauguration, and who frequented their office 
for several years prior to that time, described the two men 
as practicing lawyers : "In their office and elsewhere the 


partners always treated each other kindly and with great 
respect. Mr. Lincoln usually called his partner Billy and 
Mr. Herndon always addressed his partner as Mr. Lincoln. 
Mr. Herndon as a rule considered propositions and ques- 
tions in the abstract, while Mr. Lincoln considered them 
more in the concrete. ... As a rule they both did not 
engage in the trial of the same case." Herndon, continued 
Zane, "did not spend much time in the preparation of his 
cases ; in that respect he was like Stephen T. Logan, Mr. 
Lincoln's former partner ; he was wonderfully ready. Mr. 
Lincoln was more methodical and systematic. Mr. Hern- 
don thought he was too careful in presenting his arguments 
to the court, that he sometimes spent too much time in 
drawing inferences in support of his propositions and in 
reasoning out his positions." x 

In spite of no mean capacity as a lawyer, Herndon 
never liked his profession. Occasionally his dislike boiled 
up in words. "I am in our Supreme Court hearing dis- 
cussed the difference between 'tweedledee and tweedle- 
dumY' he wrote Theodore Parker, " — a fine spun point 
over an absurdity woven out by some priest 1200 years 
gone by now. . . . I hate the law: it cramps me ; it seems to 
me priestly and barbaric. I am above the suspicion of not 
knowing somewhat of the history, spirit, and principles of 
the law, and my feelings do not come of disappointment. I 
say I hate the law." 

Small wonder that, with Lincoln's steadying influence 
removed, his attention to his practice should become casual 
and finally cease. Not long before his death he made a 
final attempt at practice. For several months he applied 
himself assiduously. Gradually his interest slackened. One 
day his partner noticed that the book in his hands was 
receiving grudging, perfunctory attention. Suddenly it 
was slammed shut. "Damn the law !" he exploded. With 
those words the legal career of William H. Herndon ended. 

1 Quoted in Lincoln and Herndon, by Joseph Fort Newton, 
pp. 252-253. Those who are familiar with this excellent book — and 
they are far too few — will recognize the extent of my indebtedness 
to it. 


The Lincoln-Herndon partnership, however, was politi- 
cal as well as legal. Curious alliance it was, too, with the 
junior member serving- in all sorts of capacities. When 
Lincoln was in Congress in 1848 and 1849 it was Herndon 
who kept him informed as to the state of opinion in his 
own district — who warned him time and again that his 
opposition to the Mexican War was not only costing him 
his chance of reelection, but making certain the defeat of 
whoever should be the Whig candidate. Yet when Lin- 
coln, reconciled to his fate and deep in the presidential 
campaign, took in hand the building of a Taylor organi- 
zation in his district, it was Herndon whom he summoned 
for the task. "Form a 'Rough and Ready Club,' " he 
wrote, "and have regular meetings and speeches . . . 
gather up all the shrewd, wild boys about town, whether 
just of age or a little under age. . . . Let every one play 
the part he can play best — some speak, some sing, and 
all 'holler.' " The Illinois Journal soon announced the 
formation of a Springfield Taylor Club, and called on 
every precinct in the county to take similar action. First 
among the speakers it offered to provide stood William H. 

Between 1849 and 1854 Herndon took no more active 
part in national politics than Lincoln. The repeal of the 
Missouri Compromise, however, aroused both men. While 
the senior partner went no further than to oppose the 
spread of slavery, Herndon joined Love joy and Codding 
in radical Republicanism. His activities are best de- 
scribed in his own words : 2 "Firstly : I collected some two 
or three hundred dollars and sent this to the Republican 
association and other places ; and purchased documents, 
speeches, books, etc., and scattered them among our people. 
I did this alone. Secondly : I commenced early in 1854 
in our county and spoke on every stump and in every 
church and schoolhouse therein, and thus carried our 
county by a larger majority than ever before." Yet when 
his radical associates laid a trap to commit Lincoln to their 

2 Herndon to Theodore Parker, December 27, 1856. In New- 
ton, Lincoln and Herndon, pp. 101-102. 


cause, it was Herndon who warned him and who saved him 
from a political pitfall. 3 

In 1856 Herndon played a part of some prominence 
in the formation of the Republican party in Illinois. He 
attended the editors' convention at Decatur on February 
22, and was elected a member of the State Central Com- 
mittee. In that capacity he issued the call for a Sanga- 
mon County convention to select delegates to the state 
convention at Bloomington. It was then that Lincoln com- 
mitted himself to the new party. In the ensuing cam- 
paign both men did their utmost for the election of 
Fremont, but Lincoln's activities have largely eclipsed 
those of his partner. "I commenced early in March, 1856," 
Herndon wrote, "and spoke upon an average of twice a 
week in almost every part of our wide-extended State — ■ 
spoke to tens and to ten thousand at once. ... I turned 
my office into a kind of war-office — took the young, active, 
vigorous honest men there and talked to them — got them 
to take an interest that they would not otherwise have done 
in favor of human liberty — human rights. ... I did 
some good even in this department — the Law — of frigid 
conservatism." 4 

One result of Herndon's activities in 1856 was an in- 
cipient movement to nominate him for governor. During 
the spring of that year he spoke with particular effective- 
ness at Atlanta in Logan County. A few days later the 
Illinois Journal printed a letter proposing him for gov- 
ernor. After noting that both Yates and Bissell were be- 
ing mentioned for the place, the correspondent continued, 
"But there is another name which bears with it a prestige 
of greater force — a true, firm and abiding statesman ; one 
in whom the highest trust might be committed without 
fear of principles being sacrificed, or interest peddled off 
— a man that spurns to lick the hands of the political 
tricksters for the emoluments of office ... a man that 
will in every requirement be a full and thorough exponent 

3 Please see infra, pp. 299-300. 

*To Theodore Parker, December 27, 1856. Newton, op. cit.. 
p. 102. 


of the Anti- Nebraska party, in the Commonwealth — it is 
Wm. H. Herndon, Esq. of Springfield." 

There is little possibility that the movement would have 
been of any consequence had Herndon been inclined to 
foster it — which he was not — yet it is significant that the 
Journal, with which his relations were temporarily strained, 
made this letter the occasion for referring to him as "an 
earnest and eloquent defender of the constitutional rights 
of the north and an honest man ;" while the Illinois State 
Register, frequently abusive, admitted that the Republi- 
cans "might go further and fare worse." 

It was in Lincoln's contest with Douglas for the sen- 
atorship that Herndon rendered most effective service. 
Lincoln could address thousands in spectacular meetings, 
yet Herndon knew, as every politician knows, that elec- 
tions were not to be carried in this way. "I am all the time 
at the schoolhouses and the village churches," he wrote in 
the midst of the campaign, "where good can be done and 
where the 'big bugs' do not go. There are no great crowds 
at these cross-roads places, yet they are really the places 
where good can be done." With the young men — the 
"wild boys about town" — he was particularly effective. 
"I am the young man's friend, and am not without influ- 
ence among them," he confessed truly. 

But there were other ways in which Herndon was even 
more useful. A hint of the nature of these services is 
contained in a letter to Lyman Trumbull, written not long 
before the campaign commenced. Douglas had broken 
irrevocably with Buchanan, and in punishment the 'Dan- 
ites,' as the administration forces were called, were putting 
tickets in the field in an effort to split Douglas' followers 
and cause his defeat. So perfectly was this playing into 
Republican hands that there were many rumors of a con- 
tract between the Republicans and the Buchanan faction. 
Trumbull had inquired of Herndon whether such an agree- 
ment existed. "I know of no such contract finished, com- 
menced or in embryo," he answered. "I think I would 
know it . . . probably sooner and better than Lincoln, 
for you know he does not know the details of how we 


get along*. I do, but he does not.. That kind of thing does 
not suit his tastes, nor does it suit me, yet I am compelled 
to do it — do it because I cannot get rid of it." 

Two years later, in the presidential campaign, Herndon 
worked tirelessly, and again in 1864 he did strenuous serv- 
ice. After Lincoln's death his interest in politics waned, 
though he joined the radical Republicans in denouncing 
the course of Andrew Johnson, basing his case, curiously 
enough, on what he conceived to be Johnson's divergence 
from the policy Lincoln would have pursued ! 5 Late in 
life his interest flared, centering, however, on free trade 
rather than on the humanitarian issues which had so com- 
pletely obsessed him in his youth. 

Close as was their association in the practical workings 
of politics, there was a wide gulf between the political 
beliefs of Lincoln and Herndon. Lincoln was the con- 
servative, hating slavery, to be sure, but unwilling to do 
more than advocate its confinement to the territory it 
already occupied. Herndon was the radical, seeking the 
destruction of the institution wherever located. "I hope 
to see the day when I can make slavery feel my influence. 
That shall be the one object of my life," he declared in 
1856. "It and myself are enemies. I am feeble: it is 
strong, yet I am right and it is wrong: nature — eternal 
truth — is with me : error is with it. Thus we stand." 

It was natural that a man of this conviction should seek 
and make contacts with others of like opinion. This 
Herndon did. From the early fifties he was in corres- 
pondence with many leading abolitionists — William Lloyd 
Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Joshua R. Giddings and oth- 
ers. Theodore Parker, however, occupied the first place 
in his estimation. When he first became acquainted with 
the Boston preacher's writings he expressed his admira- 
tion in characteristic fashion: "May I say you are my 
ideal — strong, direct, energetic, charitable," he wrote. His 
letter was the beginning of a correspondence which lasted 
until Parker's death, and which reveals, more clearly than 
could be done by any pre-conceived pen-picture, the curi- 

5 Chicago Tribune, October 3, 1866. 


ous, effusive, attractive character of William H. Hern- 
don. 6 

Through Herndon's letters to Parker one learns his 
estimate of those intellectual leaders with whom he had 
no personal acquaintance. Some of them appeared in 
Springfield — the golden age of the lecture platform was 
just beginning — and thus furnished the incentive for char- 
acter sketches which throw more light on the personality 
of the writer than the subject. With others Herndon's 
only contact was through their published writings. 

Henry Ward Beecher, when he spoke in Springfield 
in the autumn of 1855, was the object of particular en- 
thusiasm on Herndon's part. "He will do good," he wrote 
Parker. "He looks a man and I suppose his Heaven- 
warrant does not deceive." Wlien Parker seconded his 
enthusiasm, he became lyrical. "He is a new rose, fresh 
from the garden of the almighty forces," he wrote a second 
time of Beecher. "This age was fortunate in having so 
beautiful a present. He is a man — 'a fresh minister'." 

Hardly less enthusiastic was Herndon's approval of 
Charles Sumner, though his knowledge of the Massachu- 
setts statesman was confined entirely to his published 
writings. "I am glad to see Sumner publishing the third 
volume of speeches," he wrote. "They are eloquent, 
chaste, classic. I admire Mr. Sumner very much: he is a 
man all over, inward and outward, from head to foot." 

It took personal contact, however, to overcome Hern- 
don's unfavorable impression of Garrison. "I had imag- 
ined him a shriveled, cold, selfish, haughty man," he con- 
fessed, "one who was weak and fanatically blind to the 
charities and equities of life, at once whining and insult- 
ing, mean and miserable; but I was pleasantly disap- 
pointed. I found him warm, generous, approachable, com- 
municative: he has some mirth, some wit, and a deep 
abiding faith in coming universal charity. I was better 
and more warmly received by him than by any man in 

For Horace Greeley Herndon had nothing but con- 

6 All this correspondence is to be found in Newton, op. cit. 


tempt — the bitter, biting contempt of political disagree- 
ment. Greeley had made no secret of his wish that the 
Illinois Republicans should adopt Stephen A. Douglas in 
1858, and to the partner of Lincoln this attitude was nearly 
tantamount to moral turpitude. Herndon's letters to 
Parker abound in harsh expressions, frequently echoed 
by the recipient. Yet, when the campaign was finished 
and animosities had subsided, he had the fairness to admit 
that the New York editor, though perhaps unfit for high 
leadership, was at least an honest man, and that he still 
like him "somewhat." 

It was but natural that Herndon, in close contact with 
the leading reformers of the day, should take an active 
part in temperance agitation. In this case temperament 
was abetted by self-interest, for love of liquor was a fail- 
ing which led him into occasional excesses. In the "Maine 
Law" campaign of 1855 he was a leading spirit, writing 
numerous articles in support of the law and frequently ad- 
vocating its passage from the stump. Contrary to his ex- 
pectation, it was voted down. 

Herndon, however, had already had some experience in 
the business of making men temperate by legislation. As 
mayor of Springfield from the spring of 1854 until the 
spring of 1855, it was his duty to enforce a recent ordi- 
nance prohibiting the sale of whiskey within the city limits. 
In his valedictory address he described his methods. "I 
went personally to some, if not most of the groceries, in 
our city, with the instructions of the people in my hands, 
fresh from the ballot box, and told them they must close 
their doors. I told them kindly, I intended to see the 
ordinances of the city executed — particularly the ordinance 
against the sale of intoxicating liquors, which you and I 
had been specially ordered to enforce and obey, by the 
vote of the people." In the light of the modern raiding 
party a curious, but refreshingly honest, procedure ! 

Yet neither sincere conviction nor official position could 
overcome the temptation which became stronger with the 
years. Though never an habitual drinker, Herndon's pe- 
riods of indulgence became more frequent, and threatened 


to impair his success as a lawyer. His conduct was natur- 
ally an embarrassment to his partner, though Lincoln 
never alluded to it except once. That was on the occasion 
of his last visit to the law office, when, after an exchange 
of reminiscences, he suddenly asked the younger man how 
often he had been drunk. Herndon told him accurately 
as possible. Instead of a lecture, Lincoln simply informed 
him how other lawyers had tried to displace him in the 
firm, and then turned the conversation to other subjects. 

There has been in circulation for many years a per- 
sistent rumor to the effect that after his partnership with 
Lincoln, Herndon became a drug addict. The story is 
utterly baseless, though it is unfortunately true that a 
member of his family became an habitual user of narcotics. 7 
Equally false is the rumor that Herndon drank himself 
to death. As a matter of fact, his periods of indulgence 
were far less frequent during the last years of his life 
than while he was Lincoln's partner. 

Anti-slavery agitation and temperance reform by no 
means monopolized Herndon's interest. He was the 
possessor of an excellent library in which the works of 
Kant, Comte, Hegel, Louis Blanc, Montaigne, Francis 
Bacon and others of similar character held prominent 
places. He was interested in scientific discoveries, and 
eagerly read the writings of Darwin and Lyell as they ap- 
peared. After Parker, his favorite American author was 
Emerson, whose writings, in his eyes, were synonomous 
with truth. Never content to be a passive recipient, but 
always forced by his own nature to propagandism, he fre- 
quently distributed copies of Parker's sermons and Emer- 
son's essays at his own expense rather than have acquaint- 
ances remain ignorant of them. 

Omnivorous reader though he was, Herndon was not 
oblivious to the lure of the natural. Tiring of the law, he 
frequently sought to regain his customary zest for life in a 

7 Though I have this statement from what I believe to be un- 
impeachable authority, I withhold the name of my, informant in 
order to save certain members of Mr. Herndon's family from 
needless embarrassment. 


long ramble through the woods and open fields. Often he 
returned from such a walk to write a friend an account 
of what he had seen. The following extract from one of 
his letters to Parker is a good example of his power of 
observation and description : "I move down to a small lake, 
one end of which runs into a creek. The lake is in the 
shape of a horseshoe, and near the creek fish have their 
sport. There they play and spawn upon the ripple. I 
am looking at a large bass, playing backwards and for- 
wards, breathing leisurely, as if he were in air. The water 
is pure and clean. The fish is about two feet long, fat and 
nimble. Wave but a hand and he is off into the deep. He 
sees his shadow and supposes it is another fish, for he 
seems to woo it, twists his tail and wants to hug his 
shadow companion ; yet it slips away from him." 

Herndon's love of nature was almost religious in its 
intensity. Holding no belief in any Christian creed, he 
nevertheless possessed a deep reverence for a God who 
manifested Himself in the growing things of the earth and 
its people. "I love nature better than most men," he 
wrote. "My first love is God, then man, then nature." 
At another time he expanded his creed: "My ideas of 
Nature and God have deepened and broadened, have be- 
come rich and warm in me, and I feel a fresh, vigorous 
confidence in the purity of Nature, and the eternal love 
of God for all his creatures, multiform and multitudi- 

Strange it is that the man who wrote these words should 
have thought of himself as an atheist, and that posterity 
should have acceped his description. Yet Herndon's life 
and character offer even stranger contradictions. The son 
of a pro-slavery Democrat, he became a Republican aboli- 
tionist. An able lawyer, he hated the law. Correspondent 
of Parker and Garrison, and possessor of one of the finest 
libraries in the West, he was at the same time the trusted 
friend and leader of the wild boys about town. Temper- 
ance reformer, his greatest personal vice was liquor. Ad- 
miring Lincoln almost to the point of idolatry, he has been 
continuously maligned as his chief traducer. Even his 


love of truth, which he elevated above all things, has fur- 
nished an opportunity of attack for those who hold that 
in biography "good taste" should be the ultimate criterion. 


For a number of years after Lincoln's death Herndon 
maintained a law office in Springfield, first with Charles 
S. Zane and later with Alfred Orendorff , but he spent most 
of his time at his farm a few miles north of the city. His 
real interest, however, was the accumulation of data for 
the life of Lincoln which he hoped someday to write. His 
quest for material commenced hardly a month after his 
partner's death, and continued until the end of his own life. 

In the early summer of 1865 Herndon visited the Ken- 
tucky, Indiana and Illinois neighborhoods in which Lin- 
coln had lived. There he interviewed every person who 
had any recollection of his partner or his family, and made 
careful notes of what they told him. Returning to Spring- 
field, he followed up his inquiries by letter, often continu- 
ing the correspondence for years. When opportunity 
offered, he took statements from Lincoln's friends of New 
Salem days, and from his associates at the bar. Those 
whom he could not see in person he interrogated by mail. 
Had it not been for his tireless industry many incidents 
of Lincoln's life, now familiar to every schoolchild, would 
have been irrevocably lost. 

Herndon's method of obtaining information and the 
spirit which governed him in his investigations are well 
illustrated by the following letter to Squire Hall. Hall 
had married Matilda Johnston, Lincoln's step sister, and 
was living with the other members of the family in Coles 

Springfield, Ills., January 22d, 1866. 
Friend Hall: 

Will you have the kindness to copy Mr. Lincoln's bond to 
Johnson or your father, which I saw when I was down to see 
you. Copy every word, figure, and name carefully from top 


to bottom, and send to me, if you please. Don't fail. I want 
it to defend Lincoln's memory. 

Please write to me at any time you may think of anything 
that is good or bad of Mr. Lincoln, truthfully just as it hap- 
pened and took place. Were any of you boys applicants for 
any office made to Mr. Lincoln while he was President? 

Hall — What is your honest opinion — Come honest opinion 
— in reference to Mr. Lincoln's love for his kin and relations 
generally. Please — friend — accommodate me 

Your Friend, 

W. H. Herndon. 8 

Though gathered primarily for his own use, Herndon 
was anything but selfish with the fruits of his labor. The 
authors of several biographies — notably Holland, Barrett, 
Lamon and Arnold — were heavily indebted to him, and the 
number of magazine writers and journalists who drew upon 
him for information is beyond computation. One of the 
latter, George Alfred Townsend, who interviewed him 
early in 1867, paid his debt by drawing an unforgettable 
picture of his informant. 

"How young Herndon might have looked twenty-five 
years ago," wrote Townsend in the New York Tribune, 
"We can scarcely infer from the saffron-faced, blue-black 
haired man before us, bearded bushily at the throat, dis- 
posed to shut one eye for accuracy in conversation, his 
teeth discolored by tobacco, and over his angular features, 
which suggest Lincoln's in ampleness and shape, the same 
half-tender melancholy. 'Mr. Lincoln,' said Mr. Hern- 
don, 'cared so little about clothes that he sometimes did 
;not put all of them on. He was brought up barefoot/ 
Mr. Herndon, by parallel, wears today a bright yellow 
pair of breeches, turned up twice at the bottom, and looks 
to be a wind-hardened farmer, rather than one of the best 
lawyers in the State. . . . His address is homely in form, 
commencing with, 'Friend, I'll answer your question;' and 
this he does without equivocation, with his long forefinger 
extended, and with such a fund of new information upon 
the revered memory in question that although the Lincoln 

8 Original owned by Oliver R. Barrett, Chicago, Illinois. 


biographers, from Holland up, have talked with him, he 
seems to be brim-full of new reminiscences. With an 
extraordinary memory, and great facility of inference, and 
a sturdy originality of opinion, he had the effect upon me 
to stagger all my notions of the dead President." 

The first use to which Herndon himself put his material 
was a series of lectures delivered in the winter of 1865-66. 
Both of the Springfield business colleges were offering 
lecture courses for the instruction of their students and the 
townspeople generally, and under their auspices he spoke 
three times. 

His first appearance was on the evening of December 
12, 1865, when he delivered his "Analysis of the Char- 
acter of Abraham Lincoln" in the hall of Rutledge & 
Davidson's Commercial College. "A large and highly 
intelligent audience" listened with "the most marked at- 
tention" 9 to the analytical estimate which has since, in 
condensed form, become famous as the last chapter of the 
biography. On the 23rd of the same month he spoke again 
on the characteristically worded subject : "1st. Mr. Lincoln's 
Imagination and Fancy. 2d. Will and its Power. 3d. 
Selfishness and Self-reliance. 4th. Religion. 5th. Elo- 
quence, etc., etc., etc." Again a large, intelligent, "appre- 
ciative and refined" assemblage listened to his remarks. 10 
A month later, on January 23, 1866, he delivered his third 
lecture, this time on "The Patriotism and Statesmanship 
of Mr. Lincoln." Not only was the audience large, intelli- 
gent and refined, but "fashionable" as well. u 

So far Herndon had got along excellently. His audi- 
ences were interested, and the town's papers were shower- 
ing him with compliments, predicting — rightly — that he was 
making important contributions to history. It was with 
the delivery of his fourth lecture ten months later that 
flattery turned to condemnation. On November 16, 1866 
he spoke in the Court House on the subject, "A. Lincoln — 
Miss Anne Rutledge, New Salem — Pioneering, and the 

9 Illinois State Journal, December 13, 1865. 

10 Ibid., December 27, 1865. 

11 Ibid., January 24, 1866. 


poem called Immortality — or 'Oh ! Why Should the Spirit 
of Mortal be Proud'/' and thus started a running battle 
of many years' duration. 

Though his first two lectures had been reported in part, 
the fourth was the first to be published in full. 12 The 
Springfield newspapers welcomed in this fact an excuse 
for not commenting on the production, but many papers 
elsewhere, abroad as well as in this country, printed exten- 
sive extracts. Some noticed the lecture editorially, the 
Chicago Tribune terming the Ann Rutledge episode an 
"idle tale," and expressing regret that it had ever been 
made public. Letters of remonstrance poured in upon 
Herndon. In replying to one — from Isaac N. Arnold 
reproaching him for explaining all the facts of Lincoln's 
life — he set forth his biographical creed. "Is any man so 
insane," he asked, "as to suppose that any truth concerning 
Lincoln will be hid and buried out of human view ? Folly ! 
The best way is to tell the whole truth and let it burn 
up lies. Lincoln is above reproach, thank God ; let no 
one fear to have all the truth about him brought clearly 
to light." 13 

The most serious attack, however, came from East 
Cainno, Scotland. There, in the U. S. Consular Service, 
was living James Smith, formerly pastor of the First 
Presbyterian Church at Springfield. When Smith, already 
greatly disturbed by an extract from the Ann Rutledge 
lecture which he had seen in the Dundee Advertiser, re- 
ceived an impertinent letter from Herndon asking him to 
relate first as a gentleman and then as a Christian the 
particulars of Lincoln's alleged conversion, he eagerly com- 
plied with the request. In a widely published letter he 
denied that the law office was the place to judge character, 
and implied that in the performance of his pastoral duties 
his own opportunities had been incomparably superior to 
those which Herndon had enjoyed. Judging from the 
knowledge thus obtained he was sure the relationship 

12 Herndon to Kline, Nov. 25, 1866. Original owned by Oliver 
R. Barrett, Chicago, Illinois. 

".Quoted in Newton, op. cit., p. 292. 


between Lincoln and his wife was a happy one, unaffected 
in the least by the New Salem romance. 

In the latter conclusion Smith was probably right, but 
instead of stopping" there he recounted how Lincoln had 
been converted to Christianity through the examination of 
a book of his own authorship, The Christian's Defence. 
For good measure he added a few references to Herndon 
as Lincoln's "false friend, " and closed by comparing him 
with the assassin Booth. 14 Herndon replied by charging 
that the minister's reputation for veracity was none too 
good, and by contemptuously describing him as a "great old 

Thus began the most bitter of all the controversies which 
centered around Herndon and his biographical labors — 
that over his account of Lincoln's religious opinions. The 
publication of Ward Hill Lamon's Life of Abraham Lin- 
coln in 1872 was the next step in the dispute. Herndon 
had sold copies of his manuscripts to Lamon, and from 
these Chauncey F. Black had written the book. Many of 
Herndon's statements were quoted, and the damaging in- 
ferences of the author were frequently attributed to him. 

One statement, which Lamon quoted, drew the particular 
ire of those who seemed to feel that the future of Chris- 
ianity depended upon an affirmative answer to the question 
of whether or not Lincoln had been a believer. "As to Mr. 
Lincoln's religious views," Herndon had written, "He was, 
in short, an infidel ... a theist. He did not believe that 
Jesus was God, nor the Son of God, — was a fatalist, denied 
the freedom of the will. Mr. Lincoln told me a thousand 
times, that he did not believe the Bible was the revelation 
of God, as the Christian world contends." To supplement 
this statement Lamon had printed others of similar char- 
acter which Herndon had taken from John T. Stuart, 
James H. Matheny and other Springfield associates of Lin- 

A reply was not long in coming. Upon the publication 
of Lamon's book James A. Reed, pastor of the First 
Presbyterian Church of Springfield, interviewed the men 
14 Illinois State Journal, March 12, 1867. 


whom Lamon had quoted, and obtained statements to the 
effect that Herndon had taken liberties with what they had 
actually told him. Using these counter-statements as a 
framework, he put together a lecture the burden of which 
was that Lincoln, though not a church member, was in all 
other respects an orthodox Christian. After it had been 
delivered before numerous audiences Reed's lecture was 
published in Scribner's Magazine. 

Herndon answered with an address on Lincoln's religion, 
delivered in the Court House at Springfield in the spring 
of 1874, and published by the Illinois State Register as a 
special supplement. He stood by his notes of the Stuart 
and Matheny interviews, maintaining that in the years 
which had since elapsed, those gentlemen had forgotten 
what they really told him. But to Thomas Lewis, whom 
Dr. Reed had also quoted, Herndon paid his respects in 
words which, unfortunately, were too nearly typical of the 
entire address : "I have heard good men say they would 
not believe his word under any circumstances, especially so, 
if he was interested." To support his case Herndon ad- 
duced additional testimony from Mrs. Lincoln and John 
G. Nicolay, the President's private secretary. 

This controversy, in Herndon's belief, was responsible 
for items which now began to go the rounds of the press, 
charging that he was a lunatic, a pauper, a drunkard, an 
infidel, a liar, a knave, and almost every other species of 
degradation. These slanders he contradicted as well as he 
could; but when, in September, 1882, the Cherryvale 
(Kansas) Globe-News published the following, his temper 
got beyond control. 

"Lincoln's Old Law Partner a Pauper 

"Bill Herndon is a pauper in Springfield, 111. He was 
once worth considerable property. His mind was the most 
argumentative of any of the old lawyers in the State, and 
his memory was extraordinary. . . . Herndon, with all his 
attainments, was a man who now and then went on a spree, 
and it was no uncommon thing for him to leave an impor- 
tant lawsuit and spend several days in drinking and carous- 


ing. This habit became worse after Lincoln's death, and 
like poor Dick Yates, Herndon went down step by step till 
his old friends and associates point to him as a common 

On November 9, 1882, Herndon issued a broadside 
which he entitled "A Card and a Correction." After im- 
plying that Reed and others who held opinions concerning 
Lincoln's religion opposite to his own, were in no small 
measure responsible for this and similar allegations, he 
made his defense in the following words : 

"There are three distinct charges in the above article. 
First, that I am a pauper. Second, that I am a common 
drunkard, and third, that I was a traitor, or false to my 
clients. Let me answer these charges in their order. First, 
I am not a pauper, never have been and never expect to be. 
I am working on my own farm, making my own living with 
my own muscle and brain, a place and a calling that even 
Christianity with its persecution and malignity can never 
reach me to do me much harm. I had, it is true, once a con- 
siderable property, but lost much of it in the crash and 
consequent crisis of 1873, caused in part by the contraction 
of the currency, the decline in the demand for agricultural 
products, which I raised for sale, in part by the inability 
of the people to buy, etc., etc., and for no other reasons. 

"Second, I never was a common drunkard, as I look 
at it, and am not now. I am and have been for years an 
ardent and enthusiastic temperance man, though opposed 
to prohibition by law, by any force or other choker. The 
time has not come for this. It is a fact that I once, years 
ago, went on a spree ; and this I now deeply regret. It 
however is in the past, and let a good life in the future 
bury the past. I have not fallen, I have risen, and all 
good men and women will applaud the deed, always ex- 
cepting a small, little, bitter Christian like the Right Rev. 
pastor and liar of this city, to whom I can trace some of 
the above charges. In my case this minister was an eager, 
itching libeller, and what he said of me is false — nay, a 
willful lie. 


"Third, I never was a traitor or untrue to my clients 
or their interests. I never left them during the progress 
of a trial or at other times for the causes alleged, drunk- 
enness. I may have crept — slid — out of a case during 
the trial because I had no faith in it, leaving Mr. Lincoln, 
who had faith in it, to run it through. My want of faith 
in the case would have been discovered by the jury and that 
discovery would have damaged my client, and to save my 
client I dodged. This is all there is in it and let men make 
the most of it." 15 

Meanwhile, the long-contemplated biography was still 
unwritten. Herndon's financial position, after Lincoln's 
death, was not such as to permit him to devote his time 
to the book, while the reception which Lamon's biography 
received was not likely to encourage another to attempt a 
similar enterprise. Realizing this, Herndon decided upon 
a series of newspaper or magazine articles rather than a 
full-length biography. By this time, however, his health 
was failing, and somehow the articles remained in the 
realm of plans. It was then — the early '80's — that Jesse 
W. Weik of Greencastle, Indiana, a young man recently 
graduated from DePauw LMversity, visited Springfield. 
For some years Weik had been in correspondence with 
Herndon, and the older man soon took him into his com- 
plete confidence, entrusting him with his literary plans, 
and asking him to collaborate with him in their accom- 

Weik accepted. Investigation, however, convinced him 
that Herndon's material, supplemented with more that was 
readily accessible, was far too extensive and important to 
be used merely for newspaper or magazine purposes. He 
soon persuaded Herndon that the biography, after all, 
should be written. With this end in view he made Spring- 
field his residence, and spent his free time for some years 
in additional research under Herndon's direction. Finally' 
the co-authors were satisfied that they had exhausted the 
field, and the actual writing, largely to be performed by 

15 A copy of this broadside is preserved in the Illinois State 
Historical Library. 


Weik, was commenced. In the summer of 1889 the firm 
of Bel ford, Clark and Company, of Chicago, brought out 
Hemdon's Lincoln: The Trite Story of a Great Life, by 
William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik. 

The attacks which Herndon's last lectures had provoked 
had foreshadowed the reception his book was to receive. 
In Springfield there went up a chorus of disapproval the 
echoes of which are still audible. Everywhere those who 
had come to conceive of Lincoln in more than human 
terms were shocked, and their denunciations were loud and 
bitter. The passions which the book aroused, and the spe- 
cific points of attack on which the idolaters concentrated, 
are well illustrated by the blast of condemnation with which 
the Chicago Journal greeted it. 

"It is one of the most infamous books ever written and 
printed in the garb of a historical work to a great and 
illustrious man," the reviewer thundered. "It vilely dis- 
torts the image of an ideal statesman, patriot and martyr. 
It clothes him in vulgarity and grossness. Its indecencies 
are spread like a curtain to hide the collossal proportions 
and the splendid purity of his character. It makes him 
the buffoon and jester which his enemies describe — that 
is, it makes his buffoonery the principal trait of his mind 
and the most conspicuous of his habits. It brings out all 
that should have been hidden — it reproduces shameless 
gossip and hearsay not authenticated by proof — it magni- 
fies the idle and thoughtless antics of youth as main fea- 
tures of the man in his life and accomplishments — it 
degrades and belittles him. Where it aspires to be pathetic 
and eulogistic it is a failure. The pathos is maudlin, and 
the eulogy is tawdry. . . . 

"The obscenity of the work is surprising and shocking. 
Anthony Comstock should give it his attention. It is not 
fit for family reading. Its salacious narrative and impli- 
cations, and its elaborate columnies not only of Lincoln 
himself but of his mother, and in regard to morals gener- 
ally of his mother's side of the family, are simply out- 
rageous. . . . 

"That portion of the narrative which relates to Lincoln's 


courtship of Ann Rutledge and his subsequent attentions 
to Mary S. Owens, with his final marriage to Mary Todd, 
is indelicate, in every way in bad taste, is insulting to the 
memory of the dead, and calculated to mortify and lacerate 
the hearts of the living. Equally shameful is the discus- 
sion of Lincoln's unripened religious, or rather irreligious, 
beliefs, which he abandoned when he came to feel and 
know that an overwhelming Providence was his guide. In 
all its parts and aspects — if we are a judge, and we think 
we are, of the proprieties of literature and of human life — 
we declare that this book is so bad it could hardly have been 

It is pleasant to record that while this review stated 
accurately enough the attitude of large numbers of indi- 
viduals toward the Herndon biography, it was by no means 
typical of the opinion of literary critics. Many newspapers 
commended the book, and several periodicals praised it. 
Life and The Literary World not only spoke highly 
of Herndon's fidelity to truth, but predicted that the ulti- 
mate effect of the book would be to exalt the memory 
of Lincoln. "Here is the utmost that the plainest speak- 
ing in love has to deliver about the personal life of a 
strangely harassed and tortured man," commented the 
latter, yet, in the opinion of its reviewer, Lincoln remained 
"a noble man of Nature's making, a statesman who fol- 
lowed humbly the teaching of the Eternally Righteous 
Power, a scarred and suffering hero, forever dear to every 
true American heart." 

The Atlantic Monthly and the Nation, noted then as 
now for the quality of their literary pronouncements, both 
made the book the object of discriminating praise. No 
better estimate was made than that which appeared in the 
latter journal. For sympathetic appreciation of the char- 
acter of the author, and for fine understanding of his 
purpose, it has never been excelled, as the following extract 
will show. 

"Mr. Herndon's personal recollections of Lincoln will 
doubtless remain the most authentic and trustworthy source 
of information concerning the great man in the period 


prior to his election to the Presidency. . . . The sincerity 
and honesty of the biographer appear on every page. It 
is impossible to doubt that he has meant to tell us candidly 
what he knows about Lincoln. His long and intimate 
association with his hero gave him unequalled opportunity 
of knowing and estimating the man. He does not look at 
Lincoln's career in the light of the great events and great 
responsibilities of his Presidency, but interprets these in 
view of the known character and the familiar qualities he 
had watched in their growth for twenty years. 

"The reader of these memoirs must not look for an 
adequate estimate of Lincoln's place in history, or for an 
authoritative judgment of his conduct of national affairs 
during the great civil war. He must expect, rather, to be 
helped to understand how Abraham Lincoln became the 
man he was, and what manner of man he was when the 
election of 1860 threw upon him a burden of responsi- 
bilities hardly paralleled in history. The book is not such 
a one as a trained writer would have produced. It is more 
valuable because it is not. Facts are not selected with art 
to compose a predetermined picture; but we feel that an 
honest chronicler, who thoroughly knew his subject, has 
collected nearly everything authentic which can be known 
of Lincoln before his great elevation. We have much 
that is trivial, some things which are in bad taste, but we 
are made to feel, after all, that we are looking upon Lin- 
coln's life as he actually lived it. It depends upon our- 
selves whether he is belittled by the revelation of things 
ordinarily kept behind a curtain. We have the opportun- 
ity to know him as the valet would know him, and if we 
are of the valet's make-up, the proverbial result may 
happen, and he will be no hero to us." 

Though he was now an old man, failing in health, 
Herndon's equanimity was not greatly disturbed by at- 
tacks upon his book. "Men love old truths, never new 
ones, as a general rule ;" he wrote a friend, 10 "they handle 

16 Truman H. Bartlett, December 20, 1889. This is one of a 
number of letters written by Herndon to Bartlett between 1887 
and 1891. The originals are in the Massachusetts Historical 
Society, Boston, Massachusetts. 


truths gingerly, but there are some that do love the truth 
for its own sake; and sooner or later the life of L. will 
find them. I drew the picture of Mr. Lincoln as I saw 
and knew him. I told the naked God's truth, and I'll 
stand by it, let the consequences be what they may be. I 
think that the great majority of the critics look at the 
book favorably. I get a great many private letters con- 
gratulating me on the book. It is a curious and a wonder- 
ful fact that no critic and no other man doubts the facts — 
the truths stated by me in the life of L." 

In one respect, however, Herndon was to be bitterly 
disappointed. "When I finished the life of Lincoln I was 
as poor as a church mouse," he confessed, 17 "and am so 
yet. To get it published I had to bend to terms. I was 
compelled to wait for books or money till the publishers 
were paid in full. They have not as yet been paid as I am 
informed. Consequently I have received up to this day 
no books — no money, neither of them. I am compelled 
to work on my farm today for my tomorrow's bread and 
butter. This explains to you why I have not sent you a 
copy, but I will sometime, if I live." 

That time never came, for within a few weeks Hern- 
don's first publishers failed. Assisted by Horace White, 
he began the preparation of a new and revised edition, 
to be brought out by a different firm. When everything 
seemed to point at last to success, the final disappointment 
interposed. On March 18, 1891, death came to William 
H. Herndon. 


There can be little question but that William H. Hern- 
don contributed more than any other individual to our 
knowledge of Lincoln's life and character. Yet few 
students have accepted all that he wrote. Even fewer 
have discarded his work in its entirety. Most have simply 
adopted those parts of his book which harmonized with 
their own conceptions of Lincoln, and have branded as ob- 

17 Ibid. 


viously untrue those statements which they preferred not 
to believe. Occasional attempts have been made to prove 
or disprove certain of his contentions by independent 
evidence, but successful as this method may be in isolated 
instances, a large part of the book is, by its very nature, 
unamenable to such procedure. How, for instance, can 
one prove or disprove that Lincoln told Herndon that his 
mother was an illegitimate child? 

It is this — the intimate, personal character of Herndon's 
biography — coupled with the fact that in some instances 
errors have been definitely proved, that makes a general 
estimate of his reliability imperative. The material with 
which to form such an estimate — to work out a general 
formula, so to speak — is to be found in his own life and 

Herndon was certainly not a liar. Surpassing even his 
devotion to Lincoln was his passion for truth. Never, 
knowingly, would he distort a fact. 18 But to a passion for 
truth must be joined the capacity to recognize it. It is 
here that personality enters. Emotional, sentimental, 
steeped in New England transcendentalism, Herndon was 
inordinately fond of peering into the souls of his acquaint- 
ances in what would now be called psychoanalytical fash- 
ion. He was firmly convinced that truth could be got at 
by intuition, and he never doubted his own clairvoyant 
capacity. "If there is anything that a poor ignorant Sucker 
like myself can arrogate to himself it is this, namely, an 
intuitive seeing of human character," he once wrote Theo- 
dore Parker. 

Confidence in his power of intuitive perception was, in 
fact, a dominant characteristic of William H. Herndon. 
Time after time he relied implicitly upon this faculty. 
When, early in 1858, he called on Douglas in an effort to 
discover what was in that statesman's mind, he was con- 
fident that words between them would be superfluous. 
"I told you once, if not oftener," he explained to Parker 
some months later, "that if I could look Douglas in the 

18 For an apparent exception to this statement and its sig- 
nificance see pp. 314-15, note. 


eye I could tell what was going on. Doubtless you thought 
I was foolish. I did so, and told you all I dared, when in 
Boston. There is a peculiar tie which binds men together, 
who have drank 'bouts' together. So with Douglas and 
my humble self. I am hard to fool, friend, by man. I 
can read him about as well as he knows himself." 

Herndon's correspondence contains many references to 
this faculty. The politicians, the "knowing ones," say that 
Lincoln is certain of victory over Douglas? "My intui- 
tion — brute forecast, if you will — my bones, tell me that 
all is not safe ; yet I hope for the best." The Republicans 
of Illinois adopt Douglas as their own? "I am a young, 
undisciplined, uneducated, wild man, but I can see to the 
gizzard of this question. . . . My dog-sagacity, my mind 
instinct, says — fool !" And so forth. 

It was natural that such a man would seek to solve the 
enigmas of Lincoln's character by the intuitive method. 
That he attempted to do so he himself confessed. In a 
letter to J. E. Remsberg, written in September, 1887, he 
offered what may well be the key to the whole problem of 
his credibility as a biographer. 

"Probably, except in his scrapes," he wrote, "Lincoln 
never poured out his soul to any mortal creature at anytime 
and on no subject. He was the most secretive — reticent — 
shut-mouthed man that ever existed. 

"You had to guess at the man after years of acquaint- 
ance, and then you must look long and keenly before you 
guessed or you would make an ass of yourself. 

"You had to take some leading — great leading and a 
well established fact of Lincoln's nature and then follow 
it by accurate and close analysis wherever it went. 

"This process would lead you correctly if you knew 
human nature and its laws." 19 

It was in this process of guessing, of analysing and in- 
ferring from known facts, that Herndon went astray. 
Not always — not even often, in fact — but still frequently 
enough to make his book unacceptable in its entirety. As 

19 A printed copy of this letter is in the Illinois State His- 
torical Library. 

xl editor's preface 

a reporter of that which he himself observed at first hand, 
barring, of course, inevitable errors of memory, he was 
unexcelled. Witness, as an example, his incomparable 
description of Lincoln's appearance. As an investigator 
he was less reliable. An emotional nature, easily roused 
to enthusiasm, is not ideal equipment for the weighing of 
evidence. As a delineator of character — an analyst — he 
was most fallible, tending to ascribe to Lincoln what would 
have been his own reaction in similar circumstances. 

In short, when Herndon relates a fact as of his own 
observation, it may generally be accepted without question ; 
when his account is based on the observations and recol- 
lections of others, the possibility of error must be ac- 
knowledged ; when what he writes is obviously the result 
of inference — of "guessing" — it had best be tested by in- 
dependent evidence, or, if independent evidence is not 
available, common sense. 

If this estimate is correct, then Herndon's account of 
Lincoln's belief in his mother's illegitimacy, one of the 
main points of controversy in the biography, must be ac- 
cepted without qualification, for it comes as an unequivo- 
cal statement made directly by Lincoln to the author. As 
a matter of fact, the weight of independent evidence sup- 
ports the truth of the statement, although proof beyond 
the possibility of a doubt has never been assembled. 20 Even 
if it should be established that Nancy Hanks was born in 
lawful wedlock — a development which does not seem likely 
— Herndon's reliability would not necessarily be impaired. 
The question is so difficult of solution that it would not 
be strange if Lincoln himself had been mistaken. 

This formula can best be applied to the second disputed 
point in the Herndon biography, the Ann Rutledge ro- 
mance, by considering its two> different aspects separately. 
Not only were Lincoln and Ann in love ; but, according 
to Herndon, his affection for her was so great that her 

20 The case for the legitimacy of Nancy Hanks is best stated 
by Louis A. Warren in Lincoln's Parentage and Childhood. 
The opposite view is ably and concisely put by William E. Barton 
in The Lineage of Lincoln. 

editor's preface xli 

death plunged him immediately into a period of near- 
insanity, and affected him deeply — mainly by bringing on 
spells of intense depression — throughout his life. 

Herndon's account of the romance itself is based entirely 
on the testimony of others. At the time of Ann Rutledge's 
death he was only seventeen years old, and had known 
Lincoln no more than a year, and casually at that. Even 
so, he might have heard something of the attachment ; but 
his lecture of November 16, 1866, makes it reasonably 
clear that his first knowledge of the episode was acquired 
in the autumn of that year, when he interviewed John 
McNamar at his home near Petersburg. McNamar gave 
him the outline of the story he related in the lecture. Given 
the lead, Herndon followed it assiduously, writing every 
member of the Rutledge family and every New Salem 
resident with whom he could establish a contact. Thus his 
role was that of an investigator — not that of one who was 
recording the story of a romance observed at first hand. 
The possibility of error must be reckoned with. 

Of reliable evidence touching upon the romance itself, 
there is not the slightest particle. No contemporary record 
containing even a hint has ever been discovered. Several 
considerations, however, merit mention. By his own state- 
ment John McNamar, Herndon's first informant, had left 
New Salem before Lincoln's feeling for Ann became evi- 
dent, and did not return until after her death. Moreover, 
McNamar and all of Herndon's other informants were 
recalling an episode which had terminated thirty-one years 
before they were called upon to describe it. It would be 
strange indeed if some measure of exaggeration did not 
creep into a story so perfectly suited for romancing. But 
the most important consideration is the fact that while the 
footnotes in the biography indicate a unanimity of testi- 
mony with reference to the love of Lincoln and Ann, such 
was not the case. Some of those to whom Herndon wrote 
replied that in their opinion the affair amounted to noth- 
ing, others felt that Ann cared just as much for McNamar 
as for Lincoln, while 'Uncle' Jimmy Short, whom Lincoln 
visited every few days, said that he had never heard of the 

xlii editor's preface 

episode. Like many another passionate theorist, Herndon 
printed only the statements which supported his own case. 
Certainly Ann Rutledge and Lincoln knew each other; 
probably they formed a mutual attachment; possibly they 
were in love. But until reliable contemporary evidence 
is discovered, there will always be room for skepticism. 

For his account of the immediate effect of Ann's death 
on Lincoln, Herndon likewise depended on the testimony 
of others. Here again the length of time between the 
event and the relation of it is worth bearing in mind. But 
here, for the first time, a contemporary record has some 
bearing. At New Salem there lived a certain Mathew S. 
Marsh who, on September 22, 1835, wrote a long letter 
to his brother in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. "The Post 
Master (Mr. Lincoln)" said Marsh, "is very careless 
about leaving his office open and unlocked during the day 
—half the time I go in and get my papers, etc. without any- 
one being there as was the case yesterday. The letter 
was only marked 25 and even if he had been there and 
known it was double, he would not have charged me any 
more — luckily he is a very clever fellow and a particular 
friend of mine. If he is there when I carry this to the 
office — I will get him to 'Frank' it — ." a 

Now, as Herndon relates the story, the depression which 
seized Lincoln upon Ann's death grew until friends feared 
for his sanity. Finally his condition became so alarming 
that he was induced to put himself under the care of 
Bowling Green, at whose home he remained "some weeks," 
emerging with his equilibrium restored. But cold chrono- 
logy indicates that this version is somewhat too highly 
colored. Ann Rutledge died on August 25, 1835. Less 
than four weeks later Lincoln was attending to his duties 
as postmaster, somewhat carelessly, to be sure, yet Marsh 
implies that the carelessness was customary, and not the 
result of a recent emotional upheaval. Furthermore, his 
letter gives no hint that Lincoln had not been performing 
these same duties uninterruptedly. In another portion of 
the letter Marsh comments at length upon the prevalence 
21 Original owned by Oliver R. Barrett, Chicago, Illinois. 

editor's preface xliii 

of sickness in the community, and mentions several deaths. 
Yet the death which is supposed almost to have impaired 
the reason of his "particular friend" is passed by without 
notice. In view of these facts it is difficult to accept at 
face value Herndon's account of the cataclysmic effect of 
Ann's death upon Lincoln. 

The enduring- effect is, of course, pure inference. Hern- 
don believed that Ann's death was largely responsible for 
Lincoln's recurrent melancholy, and he also believed — at 
least in 1866, when he delivered his famous lecture — that 
Ann was the only woman Lincoln ever loved. Neither 
belief has probability for a support. Indeed, competent 
medical opinion holds that it is next to impossible, psy- 
chologically, for an emotional attachment to endure for 
anything like the lifetime of a man unless it be stimulated 
by frequent personal contact. Herndon was certainly 
"guessing" when he traced Ann's influence through Lin- 
coln's life. 

But what about the wedding at which Lincoln failed to 
appear? And what about the record of his domestic 
difficulties ? 

Nowhere in his narrative does Herndon indicate that he 
was among those invited to the home of Ninian W. Ed- 
wards on January 1, 1841. Moreover, he was not yet a 
student in the office of Logan and Lincoln. Consequently, 
it is safe to assume that he was relying on the recollections 
of others when he wrote his story of the wedding and the 
missing bridegroom. And what a tangle of contradictions 
those recollections are ! Every positive statement in sup- 
port of Herndon's narrative can be matched by an equally 
positive one in flat contradiction. In this dilemma, it would 
seem to be the part of wisdom to disregard the reminis- 
cences and to try to discover what happened — or at least 
what did not happen — by a different approach. 

From this point of view, there are certain significant 
considerations. In the first place, to shirk the wedding 
as Herndon asserts Lincoln did is entirely out of harmony 
with his known character. In the second place, the mar- 
riage license records of Sangamon County — which are 

xliv editor's preface 

complete — show that no license was issued to Lincoln on 
or before January 1, 1841, which would hardly have been 
the case had he changed his mind at the last moment. In 
the third place, a recently discovered letter, which cannot 
yet be made public, proves that six months after Lincoln 
is said publicly to have humiliated her, Mary Todd not 
only bore him no resentment, but was anxious that their 
former relations be resumed. Certainly this would not 
have been the case if Herndon's account is literally cor- 

Yet Lincoln's letters to Speed leave no doubt whatever 
but that the break with Mary Todd came on his own in- 
itiative. If he did not break the engagement by failing 
to appear at the altar, the fact still remains that he broke 
the engagement. Moreover, the critical will do well to re- 
member, before blaming Herndon too severely, that in 
bringing to light Lincoln's letters to Speed, and the earlier, 
character-revealing series to Mary Owens, he threw as 
much light on the causes of the estrangement as is likely 
ever to be available. 

As to Lincoln's domestic difficulties, no fair-minded 
student can disregard what Herndon wrote. The support- 
ing testimony of other contemporaries is too overwhelming. 
But here, as in his account of the Ann Rutledge romance, 
he was not content to let the facts stand alone — he 
must furnish an explanation. Gravely he explains that 
Mary Todd married Lincoln so that she might obtain 
revenge for the humiliation to which he had subjected her, 
and that the "bitterness of a disappointed and outraged 
nature . . . followed as logically as an effect does the 
cause." No better example can be found of the absurdities 
to which Herndon's propensity for drawing inferences led 

Only the subject of Lincoln's religion remains. In the 
light of modern liberalism the controversy seems foolish. 
Lincoln, said Herndon, believed in a God and in a life after 
death, and if he was skeptical of the divine origin of the 
Bible, he at least accepted it as a practical guide. But he 

editor's preface xlv 

was not an orthodo Christian, and nothing infuriated the 
junior partner more than the attempts of various sec- 
tarians to claim him as one. In the controversies that al- 
most invariably ensued, Herndon usually lost his temper, 
and the ministers themselves did not exhibit a notable de- 
gree of Christian meekness and forebearance. 

Moreover, it should be borne in mind that Herndon, 
deeply read in philosophy, was accustomed to the use of 
terms which to many of his readers and auditors had only 
a vague and sinister significance. When he described 
Lincoln as a theist, few understood what he really meant, 
for the same laxity which today confuses bolshevik and 
socialist existed then with reference to the various de- 
scriptions of religious unorthodoxy. 

Had he written of Lincoln's religion in the biography 
as he wrote of it in a personal letter, 22 there could have been 
little cause for complaint. "I have often said that Mr. 
Lincoln was an Infidel and 2" say it now," he stated. ". . . 
Now what is an Infidel? As the Infidels use the word it 
means those who deny that the Bible is the divine special 
revelation of God. . . . Lincoln was a Deist if that word 
suits — fits the case better. / well know that all this is no 
evidence of a zvant of religion in Mr. Lincoln: it is rather 
an evidence that he had his own religion. I have said for 
more than twenty years that Mr. Lincoln was a thoroughly 
religious man — a man of exalted notions of right — justice 
— duty, etc., etc." Truly, as Herndon observed in another 
connection, "the world is full of fuss and fight simply 
because men do not understand one another." 

Nevertheless, there can be little question but that during 
the last years of his life Lincoln went through a spiritual 
development with which his former partner was unfamil- 
iar. The tragedy of war and the death of William Wallace, 
his favorite son, both contributed to the depth of religious 
feeling so evident in his later writings. Had Herndon 
known of this growth he might have written more warmly 

22 To Truman H. Bartlett, October, 1887. The italics are 

xlvi editor's preface 

of Lincoln's faith. That he was unfamiliar with it in no 
wise invalidates what he wrote of the religion of the earlier 

After all, these weaknesses are no more than slight blem- 
ishes in a notable book. Admit that Herndon exaggerated 
the effect of the death of Ann Rutledge, admit that he 
colored the wedding scene too highly, admit that now and 
then he drew a foolish inference — and the value of his 
work is not perceptibly affected. Half a century and more 
has only given emphasis to the prediction of Horace White 
that "as a portraiture of the man Lincoln. ... I venture 
to think that Mr. Herndon's work will never be surpassed." 




of February, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky, Mr. 
Lincoln usually had but little to say of himself, the lives 
of his parents, or the history of the family before their 
removal to Indiana. If he mentioned the subject at all, it 
was with great reluctance and significant reserve. There 
was something about his origin he never cared to dwell 
upon. His nomination for the Presidency in 1860, how- 
ever, made the publication of his life a necessity, and 
attracted to Springfield an army of campaign biographers 
and newspaper men. They met him in his office, stopped 
him in his walks, and followed him to his house. Artists 
came to paint his picture, and sculptors to make his bust. 
His autographs were in demand, and people came long 
distances to shake him by the hand. This sudden elevation 
to national prominence found Mr. Lincoln unprepared in a 
great measure for the unaccustomed demonstrations that 
awaited him. While he was easy of approach and equally 
courteous to all, yet, as he said to me one evening after a 
long day of hand-shaking, he could not understand why 
people should make so much over him. 

Among the earliest newspaper men to arrive in Spring- 
field after the Chicago convention was the late J. L. Scripps 
of the Chicago Tribune, who proposed to prepare a history 
of his life. Mr. Lincoln deprecated the idea of writing 
even a campaign biography. "Why, Scripps," said he, "it 
is a great piece of folly to attempt to make anything out of 
me or my early life. It can all be condensed in to a single 
sentence, and that sentence you will find in Gray's Elegy, 


The short and simple annals of the poor.' 

That's my life, and that's all you or anyone else can make 
out of it." 

He did, however, communicate some facts and meagre 
incidents of his early days, and, with the matter thus ob- 
tained, Mr. Scripps prepared his book. Soon after the 
death of Lincoln I received a letter from Scripps, in which, 
among other things, he recalled the meeting with Lincoln, 
and the view he took of the biography matter. 

"Lincoln seemed to be painfully impressed," he wrote, 
"with the extreme poverty of his early surroundings, and 
the utter absence of all romantic and heroic elements. He 
communicated some facts to me concerning his ancestry, 
which he did not wish to have published then, and which I 
have never spoken of or alluded to before." 

What the facts referred to by Mr. Scripps were we do 
not know ; for he died several years ago without, so far as 
is known, revealing them to anyone. 

On the subject of his ancestry and origin I only remem- 
ber one time when Mr. Lincoln ever referred to it. It 
was about 1850, when he and I were driving in his one- 
horse buggy to the court in Menard County, Illinois. The 
suit we were going to try was one in which we were likely, 
either directly or collaterally, to touch upon the subject 
of hereditary traits. During the ride he spoke, for the 
first time in my hearing, of his mother, dwelling on her 
characteristics, and mentioning and enumerating what 
qualities he inherited from her. He said, among other 
things, that she was the illegitimate daughter of Lucy 
Hanks and a well-bred Virginia farmer or planter ; 1 and 
he argued that from this last source came his power of an- 

1 Please see preface, p. xl. The original edition contains 
the following footnote to this paragraph : "Dennis and John 
Hanks have always insisted that Lincoln's mother was not a 
Hanks, but a Sparrow. Both of them wrote to me that such 
was the fact. Their object in insisting on this is apparent when 
it is shown that Nancy Hanks was the daughter of Lucy Hanks, 
who afterward married Henry Sparrow. It will be observed 
that Mr. Lincoln claimed that his mother was a Hanks." 


alysis, his logic, his mental activity, his ambition, and all the 
qualities that distinguished him from the other members 
and descendants of the Hanks family. His theory in 
discussing the matter of hereditary traits had been, that, 
for certain reasons, illegitimate children are oftentimes 
sturdier and brighter than those born in lawful wedlock; 
and in his case, he believed that his better nature and finer 
qualities came from this broad-minded, unknown Virginian. 
The revelation — painful as it was — called up the recollec- 
tion of his mother, and, as the buggy jolted over the road, 
he added ruefully, "God bless my mother; all that I am 
or ever hope to be I owe to her," and immediately lapsed 
into silence. 2 Our interchange of ideas ceased, and we 
rode on for some time without exchanging a word. He 
was sad and absorbed. Burying himself in thought, and 
musing no doubt over the disclosure he had just made, he 
drew round him a barrier which I feared to penetrate. His 
words and melancholy tone made a deep impression on me. 
It was an experience I can never forget. As we neared 
the town of Petersburg we were overtaken by an old man 
who rode beside us for awhile, and entertained us with 
reminiscences of days on the frontier. Lincoln was re- 
minded of several Indiana stories, and by the time we had 
reached the unpretentious courthouse at our destination, 
his sadness had passed away- 

In only two instances did Mr. Lincoln over his own 
hand leave any record of his history or family descent. 
One of these was the modest bit of autobiography fur- 
nished to Jesse W. Fell, in 1859, in which after stating that 
his parents were born in Virginia of "undistinguished or 
second families," he makes the brief mention of his 
mother, saying that she came "of a family of the name of 
Hanks." The other record was the register of marriages, 

2 To this remark, in the original edition, Herndon added a 
footnote, "If anyone will take the pains to read the Fell auto- 
biography they will be struck with Lincoln's meagre reference 
to his mother. He even fails to give her maiden or Christian 
name, and devotes but three lines to her family. A history of 
the Lincolns occupies almost an entire page." 


births, and deaths which he made in his father's Bible. 
The latter now lies before me. That portion of the page 
which probably contained the record of the marriage of 
his parents, Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, has been 
lost; but fortunately the records of Washington County, 
Kentucky, and the certificate of the minister who per- 
formed the marriage ceremony — the Rev. Jesse Head — 
fix the fact and the date of the latter on the 12th day of 
June, 1806. 

[Unknown to Herndon Lincoln had, on several oc- 
casions, recorded what he knew about the history of his 
family. While a member of Congress he had obtained 
the name of David Lincoln of Rockingham County, Vir- 
ginia, whom he wrote: "I shall be obliged if you will 
write me, telling me whether you in any way know any 
thing about my grandfather, what relation you are to him, 
and so on." A reply was quickly forthcoming, and as 
quickly answered, Lincoln writing his Virginia relative 
all that he knew about his two uncles and the four broth- 
ers of his grandfather, and closing with the question, 
"Do you know anything about your family (or rather 
I may now say our family) farther back than your grand- 

Other letters which may have passed between Abraham 
and David Lincoln have been lost. So have all except one 
of a later correspondence with another member of the 
family, Jesse Lincoln of Tennessee. To him Lincoln 
wrote on April 1, 1854: "From what you say there can 
be no doubt that you and I are of the same family. The 
history of your family, as you give it, is precisely what I 
have always heard, and partly know, of my own. As you 
have supposed, I am the grandson of your Uncle Abra- 
ham ; and the story of his death by the Indians, and of 
Uncle Mordecai, then fourteen years old, killing one of 
the Indians, is the legend more strongly than all other 
imprinted on my mind and memory. I am the son of 
grandfather's youngest son, Thomas. I have often heard 
my father speak of his Uncle Isaac, residing at Watauga 


(I think), near where the then states of Virginia, North 
Carolina and Tennessee join, — you seem now to be some 
hundred miles or so west of that. I often saw Uncle Mor- 
decai, and Uncle Josiah I saw but once in my life ; but I 
never resided near either of them." 

The most complete autobiographical statement which 
Lincoln ever prepared, however, was written for none 
other than John L. Scripps to whom he communicated 
"some facts" which he did not wish to be published. Know- 
ing that this statement was to be the basis of a campaign 
biography, Lincoln wrote it in the third person. That part 
which refers to his birth and ancestry follows: 

"Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, then 
in Hardin, now in the more recently formed county of La- 
Rue, Kentucky. His father, Thomas, and grandfather, 
Abraham, were born in Rockingham County, Virginia, 
whither their ancestors had come from Berks County, 
Pennsylvania. His lineage has been traced no farther 
back than this. The family were originally Quakers, 8 
though in later times they have fallen from the peculiar 
habits of that people. The grandfather, Abraham, had 
four brothers — Isaac, Jacob, John and Thomas. So far 
as known, the descendants of Jacob and John are still in 
Virginia. Isaac went to a place near where Virginia, 
North Carolina and Tennessee join; and his descendants 
are in that region. Thomas came to Kentucky, and after 
many years died there, whence his descendants went to 
Missouri. Abraham, grandfather of the subject of this 
sketch, came to Kentucky, and was killed there by the 
Indians, about the year 1784. He left a widow, three 
sons and two daughters. The eldest son, Mordecai, re- 
mained in Kentucky till late in life, when he removed to 
Hancock County, Illinois, where soon after he died, and 
where several of his descendants still remain. The second 
son, Josiah, removed at an early date to a place on Blue 
River, now within Hancock County, Indiana, but no recent 

3 In this Lincoln was mistaken. 


information about him or his family has been obtained. 
The eldest sister, Mary, married Ralph Crume, and some 
of her descendants are now known to be in Breckinridge 
County, Kentucky. The second sister, Nancy, married 
William Brumfield, and her family are not known to have 
left Kentucky, but there is no recent information from 
them. Thomas, the youngest son, and father of the pres- 
ent subject, by the early death of his father and very 
narrow circumstances of his mother, even in childhood 
was a wandering laboring boy and grew up literally with- 
out education. He never did more in the way of writing 
than to bunglingly write his own name. Before he was 
grown, he passed one year as a hired hand with his Uncle 
Isaac, on Watauga, a branch of the Holston River. Get- 
ting back into Kentucky, and having reached his twenty- 
eighth year, he married Nancy Hanks — mother of the 
present subject — in the year 1806. She also was born in 
Virginia ; and relatives of hers of the name of Hanks, and 
of other names, now reside in Coles, in Macon, and in 
Adams Counties, Illinois, and also in Iowa."] 

On the 10th day of February in the following year a 
daughter Sarah was born, and two years later, on the 
12th of February, the subject of these memoirs came 
into the world. After him came the last child, a boy — 
named Thomas after his father — who lived but a few 
days. No mention of his existence is found in the Bible 

Most biographers of Lincoln, in speaking of Mr. Lin- 
coln's sister, call her Nancy, some — notably Nicolay and 
Hay — insisting that she was known by that name among 
her family and friends. In this they are in error. I have 
interviewed the different members of the Hanks and Lin- 
coln families who survived the President, and her name 
was invariably given as Sarah. The mistake, I think, 
arises from the fact that, in the Bible record referred to, 
all that portion relating to the birth of "Sarah, daughter 
of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln," down to the word Nancy 
has been torn away, and the latter name has therefore 
been erroneously taken for that of the daughter. Read- 


ing the entry of Abraham's birth below satisfies one that 
it must refer to the mother. 4 

After Mr. Lincoln had attained some prominence in the 
world, persons who knew both himself and his father were 
constantly pointing to the want of resemblance between 
the two. The old gentleman was not only devoid of en- 
ergy, and shiftless, but dull, and these persons were un- 
able to account for the source of his son's ambition and his 
intellectual superiority over other men. Hence the charge 
so often made in Kentucky that Mr. Lincoln was in 
reality the offspring of a Hardin or a Marshall, or that 
he had in his veins the blood of some of the noted fam- 
ilies who held social and intellectual sway in the western 
part of the State. These hints were the outgrowth of the 
campaign of 1860, which was conducted with such unre- 
lenting prejudice in Kentucky that in the county where 
Lincoln was born only six persons could be found who 
had the courage to vote for him. 

Regarding the paternity of Lincoln a great many sur- 
mises and a still larger amount of unwritten or, at least, 
unpublished history have drifted into the currents of 
western lore and journalism. Mr. Weik has spent con- 
siderable time investigating the truth of a report current 
in Bourbon County, Kentucky, that Thomas Lincoln, for a 
consideration from one Abraham Inlow, a miller there, 
assumed the paternity of the infant child of a poor girl 
named Nancy Hanks ; and, after marriage, removed with 
her to Washington or Hardin County, where the son, who 
was named "Abraham, after his real, and Lincoln after 
his putative father," was born. A prominent citizen in 
the town of Mount Sterling in that state, who was at one 
time judge of the court and subsequently editor of a news- 
paper, and who was descended from the Abraham Inlow 
mentioned, has written a long argument in support of his 
alleged kinship through this source to Mr. Lincoln. He 
emphasizes the striking similarity in stature, facial fea- 
tures, and length of arms, notwithstanding the well estab- 

4 Original footnote. Throughout this book these two words 
will mean that the entire paragraph to which they refer was a 
footnote in the first edition of Herndon's Lincoln. 


lished fact that the first-born child of the real Nancy- 
Hanks was not a boy but a girl ; and that the marriage did 
not take place in Bourbon, but in Washington County. 5 

I remember that after his nomination for the Presi- 
dency Mr. Lincoln received from Kentucky many in- 
quiries about his family and origin. This curiosity on 
the part of the people in one who had attained such prom- 
inence was perfectly natural, but it never pleased him in 
the least; in fact, to one man who was endeavoring to 
establish a relationship through the Hanks family he 
simply answered, "You are mistaken about my mother," 
without explaining the mistake or making further men- 
tion of the matter. Samuel Haycraft, the clerk of the 
court in Hardin County, invited him to visit the scenes of 
his birth and boyhood, which led him to say this in a letter, 
June 4, 1860: "You suggest that a visit to the place of 
my nativity might be pleasant to me. Indeed it would, 
but would it be safe? Would not the people lynch me?" 
That reports reflecting on his origin and descent should 
arise in a community in which he felt that his life was 
unsafe is by no means surprising. Abraham Lincoln, the 
grandfather of the President, emigrated to Jefferson 
County, Kentucky, from Virginia about 1780, and from 
that time forward the former State became an important 
one in the history of the family, for in it was destined to 
be born its most illustrious member. About five years 
before this, a handful of Virginians had started across the 
mountains for Kentucky, and in the company, besides 
their historian, William Calk, — whose diary recently came 
to light, — was one Abraham Hanks. They were evidently 
a crowd of jolly young men bent on adventure and fun, 
but their sport was attended with frequent disasters. Their 
journey began at "Mr. Priges' tavern on the Rapidan." 

5 This paragraph was originally a footnote. The various alleged 
paternities of Lincoln are briefly but authoritatively treated by 
J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton in the American Mercury for June, 
1925, under the title, 'The Many-Sired Lincoln." In a letter to 
Truman Bartlett, September 25, 1887, Herndon stated his own con- 
viction : "My own opinion after a sweeping and searching exami- 
nation — investigation — is that Abm Lincoln was the child and heir 
of Thomas Lincoln & Nancy Hanks Lincoln." 


When only a few days out "Hanks' Dog's leg got broke." 
Later in the course of the journey, Hanks and another 
companion became separated from the rest of the party 
and were lost in the mountains for two days ; in crossing 
a stream "Abraham's saddle turned over and his load fell 
in Indian creek;" finally they meet their brethren from 
whom they have been separated and then pursue their 
way without further interruption. Returning emigrants 
whom they meet, according to the journal of Calk, "tell 
such News of the indians" that certain members of the 
company are "afrade to go aney further." The following 
day more or less demoralization takes place among the 
members of this pioneer party when the announcement is 
made, as their chronicler so faithfully records it, that 
"Phillip Drake Bakes bread without washing his hands." 
This was an unpardonable sin, and at it they revolted. 
A day later the record shows that "Abram turns Back." 
Beyond this we shall never know what became of Abra- 
ham Hanks, for no further mention of him is made in 
this or any other history. He may have returned to Vir- 
ginia and become, for aught we know, one of the Presi- 
dent's ancestors on the maternal side of the house; but 
if so his illustrious descendant was never able to establish 
the fact or trace his lineage satisfactorily beyond the first 
generation which preceded him. He never mentioned who 
his maternal grandfather was, if indeed he knew. 

[Abraham Hanks, owner of the dog whose leg "got 
broke," returned to Virginia and served for more than two 
years in the Revolutionary Army. 6 It does not appear 
that he was any relative of Lincoln. Intensive research, 
however, has unearthed considerable information about 
the President's maternal ancestry. 

Stemming from England, the first representative of the 
Hanks family, in Lincoln's direct line, to appear in this 
country was Thomas Hanks, who entered a hundred acres 
of land in Lancaster County, Virginia, early in 1653. A 
generation later his descendants moved across the Rappa- 
hannock to Richmond County, where Lincoln's direct an- 

6 Barton, The Lineage of Lincoln, pp. 316-318. 


cestors remained for more than a hundred years, and 
where members of the family still reside. Good substan- 
tial citizens they were, attaining neither fame nor no- 
toriety, and generally enjoying a reasonable measure of 

But Joseph Hanks, great-grandson of the original 
Thomas and maternal great-grandfather of Abraham Lin- 
coln, was not quite so fortunate in worldly goods as his 
immediate forbears. By 1784, when he was fifty-nine years 
old, he mortgaged his farm in Hampshire County, where 
he had settled two years earlier, and set out for Ken- 
tucky. Among the eight children who, with his wife, 
accompanied him was a daughter named Lucy, the un- 
married mother of Nancy Hanks who in 1806 became the 
wife of Thomas Lincoln.] 

His paternal grandfather, Abraham Lincoln, the pioneer 
from Virginia, met his death within two years 7 after his 
settlement in Kentucky at the hands of the Indians ; "not 
in battle," as his distinguished grandson tells us, "but by 
stealth, when he was laboring to open a farm in the for- 
est." The story of his death in sight of his youngest 
son Thomas, then only six years old, is by no means a 
new one to the world. In fact I have often heard the 
President describe the tragedy as he had inherited the 
story from his father. The dead pioneer had three sons, 
Mordecai, Josiah and Thomas, in the order named. When 
the father fell, Mordecai, having hastily sent Josiah to the 
neighboring fort after assistance, ran into the cabin, and 
pointing his rifle through a crack between the logs, pre- 
pared for defense. Presently an Indian came stealing up 
to the dead father's body. Beside the latter sat the little 
boy Thomas. Mordecai took deliberate aim at a silver 
crescent which hung suspended from the Indian's breast, 
and brought him to the ground. Josiah returned from 

7 Recent research has established the date of Abraham Lin- 
coln's death as 1786 instead of 1782, which would have been 
the year had he been killed two years after his arrival in 


the fort with the desired relief, and the savages were 
easily dispersed, leaving behind one dead and one wounded. 
The tragic death of his father filled Mordecai with an 
intense hatred of the Indians — a feeling from which he 
never recovered. It was ever with him like an avenging 
spirit. From Jefferson County he removed to Grayson, 
where he spent the remainder of his days. A correspond- 
ent (W. T. Claggett) from there wrote me in 1865: "Old 
Mordecai was easily stirred up by the sight of an Indian. 
One time, hearing of a few Indians passing through the 
county, he mounted his horse, and taking his rifle on his 
shoulder, followed on after them and was gone two days. 
When he returned he said he left one lying in a sink hole. 
The Indians, he said, had killed his father, and he was 
determined before he died to have satisfaction." The 
youngest boy, Thomas, retained a vivid recollection of his 
father's death, which, together with other reminiscences 
of his boyhood, he was fond of relating later in life to his 
children to relieve the tedium of long winter evenings. 
Mordecai and Josiah, both remaining in Kentucky, 8 be- 
came the heads of good-sized families, and although never 
known or heard of outside the limits of the neighborhoods 
in which they lived, were intelligent, well-to-do men. An- 
other correspondent, Henry Pirtle, wrote me in 1865 : "I 
knew Mordecai and Josiah Lincoln intimately. They, were 
excellent men, plain, moderately educated, candid in their 
manners and intercourse, and looked upon as honorable 
as any men I have ever heard of. Mordecai was the old- 
est son, and his father having been killed by the Indians 
before the law of primogeniture was repealed, he inher- 
ited a very competent estate. The others were poor. Mor- 
decai was celebrated for his bravery, and had been in the 
early campaigns of the West." 9 

8 In stating that both Mordecai and Josiah Lincoln ended 
their lives in Kentucky, Herndon was in error. Mordecai died 
in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1830; Josiah in Harrison County, 
Indiana, in 1835. 

9 Original footnote. 


In Thomas, roving and shiftless, to whom was "reserved 
the honor of an illustrious paternity," are we alone inter- 
ested. He was, we are told, five feet ten inches high, 
weighed one hundred and ninety-five pounds, had a well- 
rounded face, dark hazel eyes, coarse black hair, and was 
slightly stoop-shouldered. His build was so compact that 
Dennis Hanks used to say that he could not find the point 
of separation between his ribs. He was proverbially slow 
of movement, mentally and physically ; was careless, inert, 
and dull ; was sinewy, and gifted with great strength ; was 
inoffensively quiet and peaceable, but when roused to re- 
sistance a dangerous antagonist. He had a liking for jokes 
and stories, which was one of the few traits he transmitted 
to his illustrious son; was fond of the chase, and had no 
marked aversion for the bottle, though in the latter case he 
indulged no more freely than the average Kentuckian of 
his day. At the time of his marriage to Nancy Hanks he 
could neither read nor write; but his wife, who was gifted 
with more education, and was otherwise his mental su- 
perior, taught him, it is said, to write his name and to read 
— at least, he was able in later years to spell his way slowly 
through the Bible. In his religious belief he first affiliated 
with the Free- Will Baptists. After his removal to Indiana 
he changed his adherence to the Presbyterians — or Predes- 
tinarians, as they were then called — and later united with 
the Christian — vulgarly called Campbellite — Church, in 
which latter faith he is supposed to have died. He was 
a carpenter by trade, and essayed farming too ; but in this, 
as in almost every other undertaking, he was singularly 
unsuccessful. He was placed in possession of several tracts 
of land at different times in his life, but was never able to 
pay for a single one of them. The farm on which he died 
was one his son purchased, providing a life estate therein 
for him and his wife. He never fell in with the routine 
of labor; was what some people would call unfortunate 
or unlucky in all his business ventures — if in reality he 
ever made one — and died near the village of Farmington 
in Coles County, Illinois, on the 17th day of January, 1851. 
His son, on account of sickness in his own family, was 


unable to be present at his father's bedside, or witness 
his death. To those who notified him of his probable de- 
mise he wrote: "I sincerely hope that father may yet 
recover his health; but at all events tell him to remember 
to call upon and confide in our great and good and merciful 
Maker, who will not turn away from him in any extremity. 
He notes the fall of the sparrow, and numbers the hairs 
of our heads ; and He will not forget the dying man who 
puts his trust in Him. Say to him that if we could meet 
now it is doubtful whether it would not be more painful 
than pleasant; but that if it be his lot to go now he will 
soon have a joyous meeting with the many loved ones 
gone before, and where the rest of us, through the help of 
God, hope ere long to join them." 

[Herndon's characterization of Thomas Lincoln, based 
on the recollections of a few old men who had known him, 
is at variance in general tone and in many particulars with 
the results of recent research. It is true that he was not 
a leader in any of the communities in which he lived, but 
neither was he of the dregs. Sober, industrious — at least 
during his early manhood — and upright, at several times 
during his life he owned considerable property. Fre- 
quently he held minor political offices and served on juries. 
On several occasions he resorted to the courts to en- 
force his rights, and generally he was successful. Con- 
trary to the popular belief, he was able to write his 
name long before his first marriage. And in the various 
churches to which he belonged, he was an influential 
member. 10 ] 

Nancy Hanks, the mother of the President, at a very 
early age was taken from her mother Lucy — afterwards 
married to Henry Sparrow — and sent to live with her 
aunt and uncle, Thomas and Betsy Sparrow. Under this 
same roof the irrepressible and cheerful waif, Dennis 

10 In his Lincoln's Parentage and Childhood Louis A. Warren 
makes a strong defense of Thomas Lincoln. Many documents 
relating to Thomas Lincoln are printed in Barton, The Lineage 
of Lincoln, appendix. 


Hanks u — whose name will be frequently seen in these 
pages — also found a shelter. At the time of her marriage 
to Thomas Lincoln, Nancy was in her twenty-third year. 
She was above the ordinary height in stature, weighed 
about 130 pounds, was slenderly built, and had much the 
appearance of one inclined to consumption. Her skin was 
dark ; hair dark brown ; eyes gray and small ; forehead 
prominent; face sharp and angular, with a marked ex- 
pression of melancholy which fixed itself in the memory 
of everyone who ever saw or knew her. Though her life 
was seemingly beclouded by a spirit of sadness, she was 
in disposition amiable and generally cheerful. Mr. Lin- 
coln himself said to me in 1851, on receiving the news of 
his father's death, that whatever might be said of his par- 
ents, and however unpromising the early surroundings of 
his mother may have been, she was highly intellectual by 
nature, had a strong memory, acute judgment, and was 
cool and heroic. From a mental standpoint she no doubt 
rose above her surroundings, and had she lived, the stimu- 
lus of her nature would have accelerated her son's suc- 
cess, and she would have been a much more ambitious 
prompter than his father ever was. 

As a family the Hankses were peculiar to the civilization 
of early Kentucky. Illiterate and superstitious, they cor- 
responded to that nomandic class still to be met with 
throughout the South, and known as "poor whites." They 
are happily and vividly depicted in the description of a 
camp-meeting held at Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in 1806, 
which was furnished me in August, 1865, by an eye-witness 
(J. B. Helm). "The Hanks girls," narrates the latter, 
"were great at camp-meetings. I remember one in 1806. 
I will give you a scene, and if you will then read the books 
written on the subject you may find some apology for the 

11 In the original edition this note occurs : "Dennis Hanks, 
still living at the age of ninety years in Illinois, was the son 
of another Nancy Hanks — the aunt of the President's mother. 
I have his written statement that he came into the world through 
nature's back-door. He never stated, if he knew it, who his 
father was." Dennis Hanks was the natural son of Charles 


superstition that was said to be in Abe Lincoln's character. 
It was at a camp-meeting, as before said, when a general 
shout was about to commence. Preparations were being 
made ; a young lady invited me to stand on a bench by her 
side where we could see all over the altar. To the right 
a strong, athletic young man, about twenty-five years old, 
was being put in trim for the occasion, which was done by 
divesting him of all apparel except shirt and pants. On 
the left a young lady was being put in trim in much the 
same manner, so that her clothes would not be in the way, 
and so that, when her combs flew out, her hair would go 
into graceful braids. She, too, was young — not more than 
twenty perhaps. The performance commenced about the 
same time by the young man on the right and the young 
lady on the left. Slowly and gracefully they worked their 
way towards the centre, singing, shouting, hugging and 
kissing, generally their own sex, until at last nearer and 
nearer they came. The centre of the altar was reached, 
and the two closed, with their arms around each other, 
the man singing and shouting at the top of his voice. 

" 'I have my Jesus in my arms 

Sweet as honey, strong as bacon ham/ 

"Just at this moment the young lady holding to my arm 
whispered. 'They are to be married next week ; her name 
is Hanks.' There were very few who did not believe this 
true religion, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the man 
who could not believe it, did well to keep it to himself. 
The Hankses were the finest singers and shouters in our 

Here my informant stops, and on account of his death 
several years ago I failed to learn whether the young lady 
shouter who figured in the foregoing scene was the Presi- 
dent's mother or not. 12 The fact that Nancy Hanks did 

12 Dr. William E. Barton, Lineage, p. 239, points out that 
Herndon made an error of ten years in the date of this camp- 
meeting. Actually it took place in 1816 — ten years after the 
Lincolns were married — rather than in 1806. Consequently the 
young people Helm described could not have been Thomas Lin- 
coln and Nancy Hanks. 


marry that year gives color to the belief that it was she 
As to the probability of the young man being Thomas 
Lincoln it is difficult to say; such a performance as the 
one described must have required a little more emotion 
and enthusiasm than the tardy and inert carpenter was in 
the habit of manifesting. 



some respects like her brother, lacked his stature. She 
was thick-set, had his dark-brown hair, deep-gray eyes, 
and an even disposition. In contact with others she was 
kind and considerate. Her nature was one of amiability, 
and God had endowed her with that invincible combination 
— modesty and good sense. Strange to say, Mr. Lincoln 
never said much about his sister in after years, and we are 
really indebted to the Hankses — Dennis and John — for the 
little we have learned about this rather unfortunate young 
woman. She was married to Aaron Grigsby, in Spencer 
County, Indiana, in the month of August, 1826, and died 
January 20, 1828. Her brother accompanied her to school 
while they lived in Kentucky, but as he was only seven, 
and as she had not yet finished her ninth year when their 
father removed with them to Indiana, it is to be presumed 
that neither made much progress in the matter of school 
education. Still it is authoritatively stated that they at- 
tended two schools during this short period. One of these 
was kept by Zachariah Riney, the other by Caleb Hazel. 
It is difficult at this late date to learn much of the boy 
Abraham's life during those seven years of residence in 
Kentucky. One man (John B. Helm) who was a clerk 
in the principal store in the village where the Lincolns 
purchased their family supplies, remembers him as "a 
small boy who came sometimes to the store with his mother. 
He would take his seat on a keg of nails, and I would 
give him a lump of sugar. He would sit there and eat 
it like any other boy; but these little acts of kindness," 
observes my informant, in an enthusiastic statement made 


in 1865, "so impressed his mind that I made a steadfast 
friend in a man whose power and influence have since been 
felt throughout the world." 1 Samuel Haycraft, a school- 
mate of Lincoln's at Hazel's school, speaking of the master, 
says : "He perhaps could teach spelling and reading and 
indifferent writing, and possibly could cipher to the rule 
of three; but he had no other qualification of a teacher, 
unless we accept large size and bodily strength. Abe was 
a mere spindle of a boy, had his due proportion of harmless 
mischief, but as we lived in a country abounding in hazel 
switches, in the virtue of which the master had great faith, 
Abe of course received his due allowance." 

This part of the boy's history is painfully vague and 
dim, and even after arriving at man's estate Mr. Lincoln 
was significantly reserved when reference was made to it. 
It is barely mentioned in the autobiography furnished to 
Fell in 1859. John Duncan, afterwards a preacher of 
some prominence in Kentucky, relates how he and Abe on 
one occasion ran a ground-hog into a crevice between two 
rocks, and after working vainly almost two hours to get 
him out, "Abe ran off about a quarter of a mile to a black- 
smith shop, and returned with an iron hook fastened to the 
end of a pole," and with this contrivance they virtually 
"hooked" the animal out of his retreat. Austin Gollaher 
of Hodgensville, claims to have saved Lincoln from drown- 
ing one day as they were trying to "coon it" across Knob 
Creek on a log. The boys were in pursuit of birds, when 
young Lincoln fell into the water, and his vigilant com- 
panion, who still survives to narrate the thrilling story, 
fished him out with a sycamore branch. 

Meanwhile Thomas Lincoln was becoming daily more 
dissatisfied with his situation and surroundings. He had 
purchased, since his marriage, on the easy terms then prev- 
alent, two farms, or tracts of land in succession ; but none 
was easy enough for him, and the land, when the time for 

1 Louis A. Warren thinks that Helm's recollection was con- 
fused, and that John D. Johnston, rather than Lincoln, was the 
boy who visited the store. Lincoln's Parentage and Childhood, 
pp. 152-154. 


the payment of the purchase-money rolled around, reverted 
to its former owner. 

[Herndon's account of Thomas Lincoln's land-holdings in 
Kentucky is considerably at fault. Within a year after tak- 
ing up his residence in Hardin County he purchased a farm 
of two hundred and thirty-eight acres on Mill Creek, pay- 
ing one hundred and eighteen pounds for it. Soon after 
his marriage three years later he bought a lot in Elizabeth- 
town, the county seat. Here his daughter Sarah was born. 
The following year he purchased a three-hundred-acre 
tract on the South Fork of Nolin Creek, though he still 
owned the Mill Creek farm. 

It was on the second purchase, generally known as the 
Sinking Spring farm, that Abraham Lincoln was born. Of 
the circumstances of that birth nothing definite is known. 
We may assume, however, that the surroundings were no 
meaner than those to be found in thousands of other fron- 
tier cabins; and probably, in view of what is known of 
Thomas Lincoln at this time, that they were better than 

For six years the Lincolns lived on the farm where Ab- 
raham was born. Then, his title being involved in litiga- 
tion, Thomas Lincoln purchased two hundred and thirty 
acres on Knob Creek, some ten miles distant, probably 
with money received from the sale of the Mill Creek farm 
during the preceding year. There he lived during the re- 
mainder of his residence in Kentucky.] 

Kentucky, at that day, afforded few if any privileges, 
and possessed fewer advantages to allure the poor man; 
and no doubt so it seemed to Thomas Lincoln. The land 
he occupied was sterile and broken. A mere barren glade, 
and destitute of timber, it required a persistent effort to 
coax a living out of it; and to one of his easy-going- 
disposition, life there was a never-ending struggle. Stories 
of vast stretches of rich and unoccupied land in Indiana 
reaching his ears, and despairing of the prospect of any 
betterment in his condition so long as he remained in Ken- 
tucky, he resolved, at last, to leave the State and seek a 
more inviting lodgement beyond the Ohio. The assertion 


made by some of Mr. Lincoln's biographers, and so often 
repeated by sentimental writers, that his father left Ken- 
tucky to avoid the sight of or contact with slavery, lacks 
confirmation. In all Hardin County — at that time a large 
area of territory — there were not over fifty slaves ; and it is 
doubtful if he saw enough of slavery to fill him with the 
righteous opposition to the institution with which he has 
so frequently been credited. Moreover, he never in later 
years manifested any especial aversion to it. 

Having determined on emigrating to Indiana, he began 
preparations for removal in the fall of 1816 by building 
for his use a flatboat. Loading it with his tools and other 
personal effects, including in the invoice, as we are told, 
four hundred gallons of whiskey, he launched his "crazy 
craft" on a tributary of Salt Creek known as the Rolling 
Fork. Along with the current he floated down to the Ohio 
River, but his rudely-made vessel, either from the want of 
experience in the navigator, or because of its ill adaptation 
to withstand the force and caprices of the currents in the 
great river, capsized one day, and boat and cargo went to 
the bottom. The luckless boatman set to work however, 
and by dint of great patience and labor succeeded in 
recovering the tools and the bulk of the whiskey. Right- 
ing his boat, he continued down the river, landing at a point 
called Tompson's Ferry, in Perry County, on the Indiana 
side. Here he disposed of his vessel, and placing his 
goods in the care of a settler named Posey, he struck out 
through the interior in search of a location for his new 
home. Sixteen miles back from the river he found one 
that pleased his fancy, and he marked it off for himself. 
His next move in the order of business was a journey to 
Vincennes to purchase the tract at the Land Office 2 — under 
the "two-dollar-an-acre law," as Dennis Hanks puts it — 
and a return to the land to identify it by blazing the trees 
and piling up brush on the corners to establish the proper 
boundary lines. Having secured a place for his home he 

2 Not until October 15, 1817, after he had squatted on the 
land almost a year, did Thomas Lincoln make the formal entry 
at Vincennes. Beveridge, Abraham Lincoln, I., p. 47. 


trudged back to Kentucky — walking all the way — for his 
family. Two horses brought them and all their effects to 
the Indiana shore. Posey kindly gave or hired them the 
use of a wagon, into which they packed not only their 
furniture and carpenter tools, but the liquor, which it is 
presumed had lain undisturbed in the former's cellar. 
Slowly and carefully picking their way through the dense 
woods, they at last reached their destination on the banks 
of Little Pigeon Creek. There were some detentions on 
the way, but no serious mishaps. 

The head of the household now set resolutely to work 
to build a shelter for his family. 

The structure, when completed, was fourteen feet square, 
and was built of small unhewn logs. In the language of 
the day, it was called a "half-faced camp," being enclosed 
on all sides but one. It had neither floor, door, nor win- 
dows. In this forbidding hovel these doughty emigrants 
braved the exposure of the varying elements for an entire 
year. At the end of that time Thomas and Betsy Sparrow 
followed, bringing with them Dennis Hanks ; and to them 
Thomas Lincoln surrendered the "half-faced camp," while 
he moved into a more pretentious structure — a cabin en- 
closed on all sides. The country was thickly covered with 
forests of walnut, beech, oak, elm, maple, and an under- 
growth of dog-wood, sumac, and wild grapevine. In places 
where the growth was not so thick grass came up abun- 
dantly, and hogs found plenty of food in the unlimited 
quantity of mast the woods afforded. The country 
abounded in bear, deer, turkey, and other wild game, 
which not only satisfied the pioneer's love for sport, but 
furnished his table with its supply of meat. 

["It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild 
animals still in the woods," wrote Lincoln in the Fell auto- 
biography. More details are found in the sketch he fur- 
nished John L. Scripps. "He (Thomas Lincoln) settled 
in an unbroken forest, and the clearing away of surplus 
wood was the great task ahead. Abraham, though very 
young, was large of his age, and had an ax put into his 
hands at once ; and from that till within his twenty-third 


year he was almost constantly handling that most useful 
instrument — less, of course, in plowing and harvesting 

Thomas Lincoln, with the aid of the Hankses and Spar- 
rows, was for a time an attentive farmer. The implements 
of agriculture then in use were as rude as they were rare, 
and yet there is nothing to show that in spite of the slow 
methods then in vogue he did not make commendable 
speed. "We raised corn mostly" — relates Dennis — "and 
some wheat — enough for a cake Sunday morning. Hog 
and venison hams were a legal tender, and coon skins also. 
We raised sheep and cattle, but they did not bring much. 
Cows and calves were only worth six to eight dollars ; corn 
ten cents, and wheat twenty-five cents, a bushel." So with 
all his application and frugality the head of this ill-assorted 
household made but little headway in the accumulation of 
the world's goods. We are told that he was indeed a poor 
man, and that during his entire stay in Indiana his land 
barely yielded him sufficient return to keep his larder sup- 
plied with the most common necessities of life. His skill 
as a hunter — though never brought into play unless at the 
angered demand of a stomach hungry for meat — in no 
slight degree made up for the lack of good management in 
the cultivation of his land. His son Abraham never 
evinced the same fondness for hunting, although his cousin 
Dennis with much pride tells how he could kill a wild 
turkey on the wing. "At that time," relates one of the 
latter 's playmates (David Turnham), descanting on the 
abundance of wild game, "there were a great many deer- 
licks ; and Abe and myself would go to these licks and 
watch of nights to kill deer, though Abe was not so fond 
of a gun or the sport as I was." 

[Lincoln himself left an account of the wild turkey epi- 
sode which so impressed Dennis Hanks. "Abraham took 
an early start as a hunter," he wrote, "which was never 
much improved afterward. A few days before the com- 
pletion of his eighth year, in the absence of his father, a 
flock of wild turkeys approached the new log cabin, and 
Abraham with a rifle-gun, standing inside, shot through a 


crack and killed one of them. He has never since pulled 
a trigger on any larger game."] 

Mr. Lincoln used to relate the following "coon" story : 
His father had at home a little yellow housedog, which 
invariably gave the alarm if the boys undertook to slip 
away unobserved after night had set in — as they often- 
times did — to go coon hunting. One evening Abe and his 
stepbrother, John Johnston, with the usual complement of 
boys required in a successful coon hunt, took the insigni- 
ficant little cur with them. They located the coveted coon, 
killed him, and then in sportive vein sewed the hide on the 
diminutive yellow dog. The latter struggled vigorously 
during the operation of sewing on, and being released 
from the hands of his captors made a bee-line for home. 
Other large and more important canines, on the way, 
scenting coon, tracked the little animal home, and possibly 
mistaking him for real coon, speedily demolished him. 
The next morning old Thomas discovered lying in his yard 
the lifeless remains of yellow "Joe," with strong proof 
of coon-skin accompaniment. "Father was much incensed 
at his death," observed Mr. Lincoln, in relating the story, 
"but as John and I, scantily protected from the morning 
wind, stood shivering in the doorway, we felt assured 
little yellow Joe would never be able again to sound the 
call for another coon hunt." 3 >0 

The cabin to which the Lincoln family removed after / 
leaving the little half -faced camp to the Sparrows was in 
some respects a pretentious structure. It was of hewed 
logs, and was eighteen feet square. It was high enough 
to admit of a loft, where Abe slept, and to which he as- 
cended each night by means of pegs driven in the wall. 
The rude furniture was in keeping with the surroundings. 
Three-legged stools answered for chairs. The bedstead, 
made of poles fastened in the cracks on one side, and 
supported by a crotched stick driven in the ground on the 
other, was covered with skins, leaves, and old clothes. A 
table of the same finish as the stools, a few pewter dishes, 
a Dutch oven, and a skillet completed the household out- 

3 Original footnote. 


fit. In this uninviting frontier structure the future Pres- 
ident was destined to pass the greater part of his boyhood. 
Withal his spirits were light, and it cannot be denied 
that he must have enjoyed unrestrained pleasure in his 
surroundings. It is related that one day the only thing 
that graced the dinner-table was a dish of roasted pota- 
toes. The elder Lincoln, true to the custom of the day, 
returned thanks for the blessing. The boy, realizing the 
scant proportions of the meal, looked up into his father's 
face and irreverently observed, "Dad, I call these" — 
meaning the potatoes — "mighty poor blessings." Among 
other children of a similar age he seemed unconsciously 
to take the lead, and it is no stretch of the truth to say 
that they, in turn, looked up to him. He may have been 
a little precocious — children sometimes are — but in view of 
the summary treatment received at the hands of his father 
it cannot truthfully be said he was a "spoiled child." One 
morning when his mother was at work he ran into the 
cabin from the outside to inquire, with a quizzical grin, 
"Who was the father of Zebedee's children?" As many 
another mother before and since has done, she brushed 
the mischievous young inquirer aside to attend to some 
more important detail of household concern. 

Dennis Hanks testifies to the discipline which prevailed 
in the Lincoln household. "Abe was a good boy — an af- 
fectionate one — a boy who loved his parents well and was 
obedient to their every wish. Although anything but an 
impudent or rude boy he was sometimes uncomfortably 
inquisitive. When strangers would ride along or pass 
by his father's fence he always — either through boyish 
pride or to tease his father — would be sure to ask the first 
question. His father would sometimes knock him over. 
When thus punished he never bellowed, but dropped a 
kind of silent, unwelcome tear as evidence of his sensi- 
tiveness or other feelings." * 

The dull routine of chores and household errands in 
the boy's every-day life was brightened now and then by 

4 This quotation, originally a footnote, Herndon took from 
a statement of Dennis Hanks dated June 13, 1865. 


a visit to the mill. I often in later years heard Mr. Lin- 
coln say that going to the mill gave him the greatest pleas- 
ure of his boyhood days. 

"We had to go seven miles to mill," relates David Turn- 
ham, the friend of his youth, "and then it was a hand- 
mill that would only grind from fifteen to twenty bushels 
of corn in a day. There was but little wheat grown at 
that time, and when we did have wheat we had to grind 
it in the mill described and use it without bolting, as there 
were no bolts in the country. Abe and I had to do the 
milling, frequently going twice to get one grist." 

In his eleventh year he began that marvelous and rapid 
growth in stature for which he was so widely noted in the 
Pigeon Creek settlement. "As he shot up," says Turnham, 
"he seemed to change in appearance and action. Although 
quick-witted and ready with an answer, he began to ex- 
hibit deep thoughtfulness, and was so often lost in studied 
reflection we could not help noticing the strange turn in 
his actions. He disclosed rare timidity and sensitiveness, 
especially in the presence of men and women, and although 
cheerful enough in the presence of the boys, he did not 
appear to seek our company as earnestly as before." It 
was only the development we find in the history of every 
boy. Nature was a little abrupt in the case of Abraham 
Lincoln ; she tossed him from the nimbleness of boyhood 
to the gravity of manhood in a single night. 

In the fall of 1818, the scantily settled region in the 
vicinity of Pigeon Creek — where the Lincolns were then 
living — suffered a visitation of that dread disease common 
in the West in early days, and known in the vernacular 
of the frontier as "the milk-sick." It hovered like a 
spectre over the Pigeon Creek settlement for over ten 
years, and its fatal visitation and inroads among the Lin- 
colns, Hankses, and Sparrows finally drove that contin- 
gent into Illinois. To this day the medical profession has 
never agreed upon any definite cause for the malady, nor 
have they in all their scientific wrangling determined 
exactly what the disease itself is. A physician, who has in 
his practice met a number of cases, describes the symp- 


toms to be "a whitish coat on the tongue, burning sensa- 
tion of the stomach, severe vomiting, obstinate constipation 
of the bowels, coolness of the extremities, great restless- 
ness and jactitation, pulse rather small, somewhat more 
frequent than natural, and slightly chorded. In the course 
of the disease the coat on the tongue becomes brownish 
and dark, the countenance dejected, and the prostration 
of the patient is great. A fatal termination may take place 
in sixty hours, or life may be prolonged for a period of 
fourteen days. These are the symptoms of the disease in 
an acute form. Sometimes it runs into the chronic form, 
or it may assume that form from the commencement, and 
after months or years the patient may finally die or recover 
only a partial degree of health." 

When the disease broke out in the Pigeon Creek region 
it not only took off the people, but it made sad havoc among 
the cattle. One man testifies that he "lost four milch cows 
and eleven calves in one week." This, in addition to the 
risk of losing his own life, was enough, he declared, to 
ruin him, and prompted him to leave for "points further 

Early in October of the year 1818, Thomas and Betsy 
Sparrow fell ill of the disease and died within a few days 
of each other. Thomas Lincoln performed the services 
of undertaker. With his whipsaw he cut out the lumber, 
and with commendable promptness he nailed together the 
rude coffins to enclose the forms of the dead. The bodies 
were borne to a scantily cleared knoll in the midst of the 
forest, and there, without ceremony, quietly let down into 
the grave. Meanwhile Abe's mother had also fallen a 
victim to the insidious disease. Her sufferings, however, 
were destined to be of brief duration. W r ithin a week 
she too rested from her labors. "She struggled on, day 
by day," says one of the household, "a good Christian 
woman, and died on the seventh day after she was taken 
sick. Abe and his sister Sarah waited on their mother, and 
did the little jobs and errands required of them. There 
was no physician nearer than thirty-five miles. The mother 
knew she was going to die, and called the children to her 


bedside. She was very weak, and the children leaned 
over while she gave her last message. Placing her feeble 
hand on little Abe's head she told him to be kind and good 
to his father and sister ; to both she said, 'Be good to one 
another,' expressing a hope that they might live, as they 
had been taught by her, to love their kindred and worship 
God." Amid the miserable surroundings of a home in 
the wilderness Nancy Hanks passed across the dark river. 
Though of lowly birth, the victim of poverty and hard 
usage, she takes a place in history as the mother of a son 
who liberated a race of men. At her side stands another 
Mother whose son performed a similar service for all 
mankind eighteen hundred years before. 

After the death of their mother little Abe and his sister 
Sarah began a dreary life — indeed, one more cheerless and 
less inviting seldom falls to the lot of any child. In a 
log-cabin without a floor, scantily protected from the se- 
verities of the weather, deprived of the comfort of a 
mother's love, they passed through a winter the most dis- 
mal either one ever experienced. Within a few months, 
and before the close of the winter, David Elkin, an itiner- 
ant preacher whom Mrs. Lincoln had known in Kentucky, 
happened into the settlement, and in response to the invi- 
tation from the family and friends, delivered a funeral 
sermon over her grave. No one is able now to remember 
the language of Parson Elkin's discourse, but it is recalled 
that he commemorated the virtues and good phases of 
character, and passed in silence the few short-comings and 
frailties of the poor woman sleeping under the winter's 
snow. She had done her work in this world. Stoop- 
shouldered, thin-breasted, sad, — at times miserable, — 
groping through the perplexities of life, without prospect 
of any betterment in her condition, she passed from 
earth, little dreaming of the grand future that lay in store 
for the ragged, hapless little boy who stood at her bedside 
in the last days of her life. 

Thomas Lincoln's widowerhood was brief. He had 
scarcely mourned the death of his first wife a year until 
he reappeared in Kentucky at Elizabethtown in search of 


another. His admiration had centred for a second time 
on Sally Bush, the widow of Daniel Johnston, the jailer 
of Hardin County, who had died several years before of 
a disease known as the "cold plague." The tradition still 
kept alive in the Kentucky neighborhood is that Lincoln 
had been a suitor for the hand of the lady before his 
marriage to Nancy Hanks, but that she had rejected him 
for the hand of the more fortunate Johnston. However 
that may have been, it is certain that he began his campaign 
in earnest this time, and after a brief siege won her heart. 
"He made a very short courtship," wrote Samuel Hay- 
craft to me in a letter, December 7, 1866. "He came to 
see her on the first day of December, 1819, and in a 
straightforward manner told her that they had known each 
other from childhood. 'Miss Johnston/ said he, 'I have no 
wife and you no husband. I came a-purpose to marry 
you. I knowed you from a gal and you knowed me from 
a boy. I've no time to lose ; and if you're willin' let it be 
done straight off.' She replied that she could not marry 
him right off, as she had some little debts which she wanted 
to pay first. He replied, 'Give me a list of them.' He got 
the list and paid them that evening. Next morning I is- 
sued the license, and they were married within sixty yards 
of my house." 

Lincoln's brother-in-law, Ralph Krume, and his four 
horses and spacious wagon were again brought into requisi- 
tion. With commendable generosity he transported the 
newly married pair and their household effects to their 
home in Indiana. The new Mrs. Lincoln was accom- 
panied by her three children, John, Sarah, and Matilda. 
Her social status is fixed by the comparison of a neigh- 
bor, who observed that "life among the Hankses, the Lin- 
colns, and the Enlows was a long ways below life among 
the Bushes." 

In the eyes of her spouse she could not be regarded as 
a poor widow. She was the owner of a goodly stock of 
furniture and household goods ; bringing with her among 
other things a walnut bureau valued at fifty dollars. What 
effect the new family, their collection of furniture, cooking 


utensils, and comfortable bedding must have had on the 
astonished and motherless pair who from the door of 
Thomas Lincoln's forlorn cabin watched the well-filled 
wagon as it came creaking through the woods can better 
be imagined than described. Surely Sarah and Abe, as 
the stores of supplies were rolled in through the doorless 
doorways, must have believed that a golden future awaited 
them. The presence and smile of a motherly face in the 
cheerless cabin radiated sunshine into every neglected cor- 
ner. If the Lincoln mansion did not in every respect cor- 
respond to the representations made by its owner to the 
new Mrs. Lincoln before marriage, the latter gave no ex- 
pression of disappointment or even surprise. With true 
womanly courage and zeal she set resolutely to work to 
make right that which seemed wrong. Her husband was 
made to put a floor in the cabin, as well as to supply doors 
and windows. The cracks between the logs were plas- 
tered up. A clothes-press filled the space between the 
chimney jamb and the wall, and the mat of corn husks 
and leaves on which the children had slept in the corner 
gave way to the comfortable luxuriance of a feather bed. 
She washed the two orphans, and fitted them out in clothes 
taken from the stores of her own. The work of renova- 
tion in and around the cabin continued until even Thomas 
Lincoln himself, under the general stimulus of the new 
wife's presence, caught the inspiration, and developed signs 
of intense activity. The advent of Sarah Bush was cer- 
tainly a red-letter day for the Lincolns. She was not only 
industrious and thrifty, but gentle and affectionate ; and her 
newly adopted children for the first time, perhaps, realized 
the benign influence of a mother's love. Of young Abe 
she was especially fond, and we have her testimony that 
her kindness and care for him were warmly and bounti- 
fully returned. Her granddaughter (Harriet Chapman) 
furnished me in after years with this description of 

"My grandmother is a very tall woman, straight as an 
Indian, of fair complexion, and was, when I first remem- 
ber her, very handsome, sprightly, talkative, and proud. 


She wore her hair curled till gray; is kind-hearted and 
very charitable, and also very industrious." In Septem- 
ber, 1865, I visited the old lady, and spent an entire day 
with her. She was then living on the farm her stepson 
had purchased and given her, eight miles south of the town 
of Charleston, in Illinois. She died on the 10th of April, 

During my interview with this old lady I was much 
and deeply impressed with the sincerity of her affection 
for her illustrious stepson. She declined to say much in 
answer to my questions about Nancy Hanks, her prede- 
cessor in the Lincoln household, but spoke feelingly of the 
latter's daughter and son. Describing Mr. Lincoln's last 
visit to her in February, 1861, she broke into tears and 
wept bitterly. "I did not want Abe to run for President," 
she sobbed, "and I did not want to see him elected. I was 
afraid that something would happen to him, and when he 
came down to see me, after he was elected President, I 
still felt, and my heart told me, that something would 
befall Abe, and that I should never see him again. Abe 
and his father are in heaven now, I am sure, and I expect 
soon to go there and meet them." 5 

The two sets of children in the Lincoln household — to 
their credit be it said — lived together in perfect accord. 
Abe was in his tenth year, and his stepmother, awake to 
the importance of an education, made a way for him to 
attend school. To her he seemed full of promise ; and al- 
though not so quick of comprehension as other boys, yet 
she believed in encouraging his every effort. He had had 
a few weeks of schooling under Riney and Hazel in Ken- 
tucky, but it is hardly probable that he could read; he 
certainly could not write. As illustrating his moral make- 
up, I diverge from the chronological order of the narra- 
tive long enough to relate an incident which occurred 
some years later. In the Lincoln family, Matilda Johnston, 
or 'Tilda, as her mother called her, was the youngest child. 
After Abe had reached the estate of manhood, she was still 
in her 'teens. It was Abe's habit each morning one fall, 

5 Original footnote. 


to leave the house early, his axe on his shoulder, to clear 
a piece of forest which lay some distance from home. He 
frequently carried his dinner with him, and remained all 
day. Several times the young and frolicsome 'Tilda sought 
to accompany him, but was each time restrained by her 
mother, who firmly forbade a repetition of the attempt. 
One morning the girl escaped maternal vigilance, and 
slyly followed after the young woodman, who had gone 
some distance from the house, and was already hidden from 
view behind the dense growth of trees and underbrush. 
Following a deer-path, he went singing along, little dream- 
ing of the girl in close pursuit. The latter gained on him, 
and when within a few feet, darted forward and with a cat- 
like leap landed squarely on his back. With one hand on 
each shoulder, she planted her knee in the middle of his 
back, and dexterously brought the powerful frame of the 
rail-splitter to the ground. It was a trick familiar to 
every schoolboy. Abe, taken by surprise, was unable at 
first to turn around or learn who his assailant was. In 
the fall to the ground, the sharp edge of the axe imbedded 
itself in the young lady's ankle, inflicting a wound from 
which there came a generous effusion of blood. With 
sundry pieces of cloth torn from Abe's shirt and the 
young lady's dress, the flow of blood was staunched, and 
the wound rudely bound up. The girl's cries having les- 
sened somewhat, her tall companion, looking at her in 
blank astonishment, knowing what an infraction the whole 
thing was of her mother's oft-repeated instructions, asked : 
" 'Tilda, what are you going to tell mother about getting 

"Tell her I did it with the axe," she sobbed. "That will 
be the truth, won't it ?" To which last inquiry Abe man- 
fully responded, 

"Yes, that's the truth, but it's not all the truth. Tell 
the whole truth, 'Tilda, and trust your good mother for 
the rest." 

This incident was, many years afterward, related to me 
by 'Tilda, who was then the mother of a devoted and in- 
teresting family herself. 


Hazel Dorsey was Abe's first teacher in Indiana. 6 He 
held forth a mile and a half from the Lincoln farm. The 
schoolhouse was built of round logs, and was just high 
enough for a man to stand erect under the loft. The floor 
was of split logs, or what were called puncheons. The 
chimney was made of poles and clay ; and the windows 
were made by cutting out parts of two logs, placing pieces 
of split boards a proper distance apart, and over the aper- 
ture thus formed pasting pieces of greased paper to ad- 
mit light. At school Abe evinced ability enough to gain 
him a prominent place in the respect of the teacher 
and the affections of his fellow-scholars. "He always 
appeared to be very quiet during playtime ;" E. R. 
Burba wrote in 1886, "never was rude; seemed to have 
a liking for solitude ; was the one chosen in almost 
every case to adjust difficulties between boys of his age 
and size, and when appealed to, his decision was an end 
of the trouble. He was also rather noted for keeping 
his clothes clean longer than any of the others, and al- 
though considered a boy of courage, had few, if any, dif- 
ficulties." 7 Elements of leadership in him seem to have 
manifested themselves already. Nathaniel Grigsby — 
whose brother, Aaron, afterwards married Abe's sister, 
Sarah — attended the same school. He certifies to Abe's 
proficiency and worth in glowing terms. 

"He was always at school early," writes Grigsby, "and 
attended to his studies. He was always at the head of his 
class, and passed us rapidly in his studies. He lost no time 
at home, and when he was not at work was at his books. 
He kept up his studies on Sunday, and carried his books 
with him to work, so that he might read when he rested 
from labor." Now and then, the family exchequer running 
low, it would be found necessary for the young rail-splitter 
to stop school, and either work with his father on the farm, 
or render like service for the neighbors. These periods 
of work occurred so often and continued so long, that all 
his school days added together would not make a year in 

fi Please see Lincoln's own statement on p. 34. 
7 Herndon used Burba's statement as a footnote. 


the aggregate. When he attended school, his sister Sarah 
usually accompanied him. "Sally was a quick-minded 
young woman," is the testimony of a schoolmate. "She 
was more industrious than Abe, in my opinion. I can hear 
her good-humored laugh now. Like her brother, she 
could greet you kindly and put you at ease. She was really 
an intelligent woman." 

Abe's love for books, and his determined effort to ob- 
tain an education in spite of so many obstacles, induced 
the belief in his father's mind, that book-learning was ab- 
sorbing a greater proportion of his energy and industry 
than the demands of the farm. The old gentleman had 
but little faith in the value of books or papers, and hence 
the frequent drafts he made on the son to aid in the drudg- 
ery of daily toil. He undertook to teach him his own 
trade — he was a carpenter and joiner — but Abe manifested 
such a striking want of interest that the effort to make a 
carpenter out of him was soon abandoned. 

"I induced my husband to permit Abe to read and study 
at home as well as at school," said Sarah Bush Lincoln 
in 1865. "At first he was not easily reconciled to it, but 
finally he too seemed willing to encourage him to a certain 
extent. Abe was a dutiful son to me always, and we took 
particular care when he was reading not to disturb him — 
would let him read on and on till he quit of his own ac- 
cord." 8 

At Dorsey's school Abe was ten years old ; at the next 
one, Andrew Crawford's, he was about fourteen; and at 
Swaney's he was in his seventeenth year. The last school 
required a walk of over four miles, and on account of the 
distance his attendance was not only irregular but brief. 
Schoolmaster Crawford introduced a new feature in his 
school, and we can imagine its effect on his pupils, whose 
training had been limited to the social requirements of the 
backwoods settlement. It was instruction in manners. One 
scholar was required to go outside, and reenter the room 
as a lady or gentleman would enter a drawing-room or 
parlor. Another scholar would receive the first party at 

8 Original footnote. 


the door, and escort him or her about the room, making 
polite introductions to each person in the room. How the 
gaunt and clumsy Abe went through this performance we 
shall probably never know. If his awkward movements 
gave rise to any amusement, his schoolmates never re- 
vealed it. 

The books used at school were Webster's Spelling Book 
and the American speller. All the scholars learned to 
cipher, and afterwards used Pike's Arithmetic. Mr. Lin- 
coln told me in later years that Murray's English Reader 
was the best schoolbook ever put into the hands of an 
American youth. I conclude, therefore, he must have 
used that also. At Crawford's school Abe was credited 
with the authorship of several literary efforts — short dis- 
sertations in which he strove to correct some time- 
honored and wanton sport of the schoolboy. While in 
Indiana I met several persons who recalled a commend- 
able and somewhat pretentious protest he wrote against 
cruelty to animals. The wholesome effects of a temper- 
ate life and the horrors of war were also subjects which 
claimed the services of his pen then, as they in later years 
demanded the devoted attention of his mind and heart. 

[Recalling his school days, Lincoln said that he "went 
to A B C schools by littles, kept successively by Andrew 
Crawford, — Sweeney, and Azel W. Dorsey. He does not 
remember any other. . . . Abraham now thinks that the 
aggregate of all his schooling did not amount to one 
year." At another time he wrote of his youth in In- 
diana: "There were some schools, so called, but no quali- 
fication was ever required of a teacher beyond 'readin', 
writin', and cipherin' to the rule of three.' If a straggler 
supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the 
neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard. There 
was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education. 
Of course, when I came of age I did not know much. 
Still, somehow, I could read, write, and cipher to the rule 
of three, but that was all."] 

He was now over six feet high and was growing at a 


tremendous rate, for he added two inches more before the 
close of his seventeenth year, thus reaching- the limit of his 
stature. He weighed in the region of a hundred and sixty 
pounds ; was wiry, vigorous, and strong. His feet and 
hands were large, arms and legs long and in striking con- 
trast with his slender trunk and small head. "His skin 
was shriveled and yellow," declares Kate Gentry, one of 
the girls who attended Crawford's school. "His shoes, 
when he had any, were low. He wore buckskin breeches, 
linsey-woolsey shirt, and a cap made of the skin of a 
squirrel or coon. His breeches were baggy and lacked by 
several inches meeting the tops of his shoes, thereby ex- 
posing his shin-bone, 'sharp, blue, and narrow.' In one 
branch of school learning he was a great success ; that was 
spelling. We are indebted to Kate Roby, a pretty miss of 
fifteen, for an incident which illustrates alike his pro- 
ficiency in orthography and his natural inclination to help 
another out of the mire. The word "defied" had been 
given out by Schoolmaster Crawford, but had been mis- 
spelled several times when it came Miss Roby's turn. 
"Abe stood on the opposite side of the room" (related 
Miss Roby to me in 1865) "and was watching me. I 
began d-e-f — and then I stopped, hesitating whether to 
proceed with an T or a *y\ Looking up I beheld Abe, a 
grin covering his face, and pointing with his index finger 
to his eye. I took the hint, spelled the word with an 'i,' 
and it went through all right." There was more or less 
of an attachment between Miss Roby and Abe, although 
the lady took pains to assure me that they were never in 
love. She described with self-evident pleasure, however, 
the delightful experience of an evening's stroll down to 
the river with him, where they were wont to sit on the 
bank and watch the moon as it slowly rose over the neigh- 
boring hills. Dangling their youthful feet in the water, 
they gazed on the pale orb of night, as many a fond pair 
before them had done and will continue to do until the 
end of the world. One evening, when thus engaged, their 
conversation and thoughts turned on the movement of 


the planets. "I did not suppose that Abe, who had seen 
so little of the world, would know anything about it, 
but he proved to my satisfaction that the moon did not 
go down at all ; that it only seemed to ; that the earth, 
revolving from west to east, carried us under, as it 
were. 'We do the sinking,' he explained ; 'while to us 
the moon is comparatively still. The moon's sinking is 
only an illusion.' I at once dubbed him a fool, but later 
developments convinced me that I was the fool, not he. 
He was well acquainted with the general laws of astron- 
omy and the movements of the heavenly bodies, but where 
he could have learned so much, or how to put it so plainly, 
I never could understand." 

Absalom Roby is authority for the statement that even 
ut that early day Abe was a patient reader of a Louisville 
newspaper, which some one at Gentryville kindly fur- 
nished him. Among the books he read were the Bible, 
JEsop's Fables, Robinson Crusoe, Bunyan's Pilgrim's 
Progress, a History of the United States, and Weems' 
Life of Washington. A little circumstance attended the 
reading of the last-named book, which only within recent 
years found its way into public print. The book was 
borrowed from a close-fisted neighbor, Josiah Craw- 
ford, and one night, while lying on a little shelf near 
a crack between two logs in the Lincoln cabin during a 
storm, the covers were damaged by rain. Crawford — 
not the schoolmaster, but old Blue Nose, as Abe and oth- 
ers called him — assessed the damage to his book at seventy- 
five cents, and the unfortunate borrower was required to 
pull fodder for three days at twenty-five cents a day in set- 
tlement of the account. While at school it is doubtful if 
he was able to own an arithmetic. His stepmother was 
unable to remember his ever having owned one. She 
gave me, however, a few leaves from a book made and 
bound by Abe, in which he had entered, in a large, bold 
hand, the tables of weights and measures, and the "sums" 
to be worked out in illustration of each table. Where the 
arithmetic was obtained I could not learn. On one of 
the pages which the old lady gave me, and just underneath 


the table which tells how many pints there are in a bushel, 
the facetious young student had scrawled these four lines 
of schoolboy doggerel : 

"Abraham Lincoln, 
His hand and pen, 
He will be good, 

But God knows when." 

On another page were found, in his own hand, a few 
lines which it is also said he composed. Nothing indicates 
that they were borrowed, and I have always, therefore, 
believed that they were original with him. Although a 
little irregular in metre, the sentiment would, I think, do 
credit to an older head. 

"Time, what an empty vapor 'tis, 

And days how swift they are: 
Swift as an Indian arrow — 

Fly on like a shooting star. 
The present moment just is here, 

Then slides away in haste, 
That we can never say they're ours, 

But only say they're past." 

His penmanship, after some practice, became so regular 
in form that it excited the admiration of other and younger 
boys. One of the latter Joseph C. Richardson, said that 
"Abe Lincoln was the best penman in the neighborhood." 
At Richardson's request he made some copies for practice. 
During my visit to Indiana I met Richardson, who showed 
these two lines, which Abe had prepared for him : 

"Good boys who to their books apply 
Will all be great men by and by." 

To comprehend Mr. Lincoln fully we must know in sub- 
stance not only the facts of his origin, but also the manner 
of his development. It will always be a matter of wonder 
to the American people, I have no doubt — as it has been 
to me — that from such restricted and unpromising oppor- 
tunities in early life, Mr. Lincoln grew into the great 
man he was. The foundation for his education was laid in 


Indiana and in the little town of New Salem in Illinois, 
and in both places he gave evidence of a nature and char- 
acteristics that distiguished him from every associate and 
surrounding he had. He was not peculiar or eccentric, and 
yet a shrewd observer would have seen that he was de- 
cidedly unique and original. Although imbued with a 
marked dislike for manual labor, it cannot be truthfully 
said of him that he was indolent. From a mental stand- 
point he was one of the most energetic young men of his 
day. He dwelt altogether in the land of thought. His 
deep meditation and abstraction easily induced the belief 
among his horny-handed companions that he was lazy. In 
fact, a neighbor, John Romine, makes that charge. "He 
worked for me," testifies the latter, "but was always read- 
ing and thinking. I used to get mad at him for it. I say 
he was awful lazy. He would laugh and talk — crack his 
jokes and tell stories all the time; didn't love work half as 
much as his pay. He said to me one day that his father 
taught him to work; but he never taught him to love it." 
Verily there was but one Abraham Lincoln ! 

His chief delight during the day, if unmolested, was to 
lie down under the shade of some inviting tree to read and 
study. At night, lying on his stomach in front of the open 
fireplace, with a piece of charcoal he would cipher on a 
broad, wooden shovel. When the latter was covered on 
both sides he would take his father's drawing knife or 
plane and shave it off clean, ready for a fresh supply of 
inscriptions the next day. He often moved about the 
cabin with a piece of chalk, writing and ciphering on 
boards and the flat sides of hewn logs. When every bare 
wooden surface had been filled with his letters and ciphers 
he would erase them and begin anew. Thus it was always ; 
and the boy whom dull old Thomas Lincoln and rustic John 
Romine conceived to be lazy was in reality the most tire- 
less worker in all the region around Gentryville. His step- 
mother told me he devoured everything in the book line 
within his reach. If in his reading he came across anything 
that pleased his fancy, he entered it down in a copy-book — 
a sort of repository, in which he was wont to store every- 


thing worthy of preservation. "Frequently," related his 
stepmother, "he had no paper to write his pieces down on. 
Then he would put them with chalk on a board or plank, 
sometimes only making a few signs of what he intended 
to write. When he got paper he would copy them, al- 
ways bringing them to me and reading them. He would 
ask my opinion of what he had read, and often explained 
things to me in his plain and simple language." How he 
contrived at the age of fourteen to absorb information is 
thus told by John Hanks : "When Abe and I returned to 
the house from work he would go to the cupboard, snatch 
a piece of corn bread, sit down, take a book, cock his legs 
up as high as his head, and read. We grubbed, plowed, 
mowed, and worked together barefooted in the field. When- 
ever Abe had a chance in the field while at work, or at the 
house, he would stop and read." He kept the Bible and 
Msop's Fables always within reach, and read them over 
and over again. These two volumes furnished him with 
the many figures of speech and parables which he used with 
such happy effect in his later and public utterances. 

Amid such restricted and unromantic environments the 
boy developed into the man. The intellectual fire burned 
slowly, but with a steady and intense glow. Although 
denied the requisite training of the schoolroom, he was 
none the less competent to cope with those who had under- 
gone that discipline. No one had a more retentive memory. 
If he read or heard a good thing it never escaped him. His 
powers of concentration were intense, and in the ability 
through analysis to strip bare a proposition he was un- 
excelled. His thoughtful and investigating mind dug down 
after ideas, and never stopped till bottom facts were 
reached. With such a mental equipment the day was des- 
tined to come when the world would need the services of 
his intellect and heart. That he was equal to the great 
task when the demand came is but another striking proof 
of the grandeur of his character. 



Statutes of Indiana." He obtained the volume from his 
friend David Turnham, who testifies that he fairly de- 
voured the book in his eager efforts to abstract the store 
of knowledge that lay between the lids. No doubt, as 
Turnham insists, the study of the statutes at this early day 
led Abe to think of the law as his calling in maturer years. 
At any rate he now began to evince no little zeal in the 
matter of public speaking — in compliance with the old 
notion, no doubt, that a lawyer can never succeed unless 
he has the elements of the orator or advocate in his con- 
struction — and even when at work in the field he could not 
resist the temptation to mount the nearest stump and prac- 
tice on his fellow-laborers. The latter would flock around 
him, and active operations would cease whenever he began. 
A cluster of tall and stately trees often made him a most 
dignified and appreciative audience during the delivery 
of these maiden forensic efforts. He was old enough to 
attend musters, log-rollings, and horse-races, and was rap- 
idly becoming a favored as well as favorite character. 
"The first time I ever remember of seeing Abe Lincoln," 
is the testimony of one of his neighbors (James W. 
Lamar), "was when I was a small boy and had gone with 
my father to attend some kind of an election. One of our 
neighbors, James Larkins, was there. Larkins was a great 
hand to brag on anything he owned. This time it was his 
horse. He stepped up before Abe, who was in the crowd, 
and commenced talking to him, boasting all the while of 
his animal. 

" 'I have got the best horse in the country'," he shouted 


to his young listener. " 'I ran him three miles in exactly 
nine minutes, and he never fetched a long breath.' ' 

" 'I presume,' said Abe, rather dryly, 'he fetched a good 
many short ones though.' " 

With all his peaceful propensities Abe was not averse to 
a contest of strength, either for sport or in settlement — as 
in one memorable case — of grievances. Personal encoun- 
ters were of frequent occurrence in Gentryville in those 
days, and the prestige of having thrashed an opponent gave 
the victor marked social distinction. Green B. Taylor, with 
whom Abe worked the greater part of one winter on a 
farm, furnished me with an account of the noted fight 
between John Johnston, Abe's step-brother, and William 
Grigsby, in which stirring drama Abe himself played an 
important role before the curtain was rung down. Taylor's 
father was the second for Johnston, and William Whitten 
officiated in a similar capacity for Grigsby. "They had a 
terrible fight," relates Taylor, "and it soon became apparent 
that Grigsby was too much for Lincoln's man, Johnston. 
After they had fought a long time without interference, 
it having been agreed not to break the ring, Abe burst 
through, caught Grigsby, threw him off and some feet 
away. There he stood, proud as Lucifer, and swinging a 
bottle of liquor over his head swore he was 'the big buck 
of the lick.' 'If any one doubts it,' he shouted, 'he has 
only to come on and whet his horns.' " A general engage- 
ment followed this challenge, but at the end of hostilities 
the field was cleared and the wounded retired amid the 
exultant shouts of their victors. 

Much of the latter end of Abe's boyhood would have 
been lost in the midst of tradition but for the store of 
information and recollections I was fortunate enough to 
secure from an interesting old lady whom I met in In- 
diana in 1865. She was the wife of Josiah Crawford — 
"Blue Nose," as Abe had named him — and possessed rare 
accomplishments for a woman reared in the backwoods of 
Indiana. She was not only impressed with Abe's early 
efforts, but expressed great admiration for his sister Sarah, 
whom she often had with her at her own hospitable home 


and whom she described as a modest, industrious, and sen- 
sible sister of a humorous and equally sensible brother. 
From Mrs. Crawford I obtained the few specimens of 
Abe's early literary efforts and much of the matter that 
follows in this chapter. 

In one of her conversations with me Mrs. Crawford told 
me of the exhibitions with which at school they often en- 
tertained the few persons who attended the closing day. 
Sometimes, in warm weather, the scholars made a platform 
of clean boards covered overhead with green boughs. Gen- 
erally, however, these exhibitions took place in the school- 
room. The exercises consisted of the varieties offered at 
this day at the average seminary or school — declamations 
and dialogues or debates. The declamations were obtained 
principally from a book called The Kentucky Preceptor, 
which volume Mrs. Crawford gave me as a souvenir of my 
visit. Lincoln had often used it himself, she said. The 
questions for discussion were characteristic of the day and 
age. The relative merits of the "Bee and the Ant," the 
difference in strength between "Wind and Water," taxed 
their knowledge of physical phenomena; and the all-im- 
portant question "Which has the most right to complain, 
the Indian or the Negro?" called out their conceptions of 
a great moral or national wrong. In the discussion of all 
these grave subjects Lincoln took a deep interest. 1 

The introduction here of the literary feature as affording 
us a glimpse of Lincoln's boyhood days may to a certain 
extent grate harshly on over-refined ears; but still no 
apology is necessary, for, as intimated at the outset, I in- 
tend to keep close to Lincoln all the way through. Some 
writers would probably omit these songs and backwoods 
recitals as savoring too strongly of the Bacchanalian na- 
ture, but that would be a narrow view to take of history. 
If we expect to know Lincoln thoroughly we must be pre- 
pared to take him as he really was. 

In 1826 Abe's sister Sarah was married to Aaron Grigs- 
by, and at the wedding the Lincoln family sang a song 
composed in honor of the event by Abe himself. It is a 
1 Original footnote. 


tiresome doggerel and full of painful rhymes. I reproduce 
it here from the manuscript furnished me by Mrs. Craw- 
ford. The author and composer called it "Adam and Eve's 
Wedding Song." 

"When Adam was created 
He dwelt in Eden's shade, 
As Moses has recorded, 

And soon a bride was made. 

Ten thousand times ten thousand 
Of creatures swarmed around 

Before a bride was formed, 
And yet no mate was found. 

The Lord then was not willing 

That man should be alone, 
But caused a sleep upon him, 

And from him took a bone. 

And closed the flesh instead thereof, 

And then he took the same 
And of it made a woman, 

And brought her to the man. 

Then Adam he rejoiced 

To see his loving bride 
A part of his own body, 

The product of his side. 

The woman was not taken 

From Adam's feet we see, 
So he must not abuse her, 

The meaning seems to be. 

The woman was not taken 
From Adam's head, we know, 

To show she must not rule him — 
'Tis evidently so. 

The woman she was taken 

From under Adam's arm, 
So she must be protected 

From injuries and harm." 


Poor Sarah, at whose wedding this song was sung, never 
lived to see the glory nor share in the honor that after- 
wards fell to the lot of her tall and angular brother. 
Within two years after her marriage, she died in childbirth. 
Something in the conduct of the Grigsbys and their treat- 
ment of his sister gave Abe great offense, and for a long 
time the relations between him and them were much 
strained. The Grigsbys were the leading family in Gentry- 
ville, and consequently were of no little importance in a 
social way. Abe, on the contrary, had no reserve of family 
or social influence to draw upon. He was only awaiting an 
opportunity to "even up" the score between them. Neither 
his father nor any of the Hankses were of any avail, and 
he therefore for the first time resorted to the use of his 
pen for revenge. He wrote a number of pieces in which 
he took occasion to lampoon those who provoked in any 
way his especial displeasure. It was quite natural to con- 
ceive therefore that with the gift of satire at command 
he should not have permitted the Grigsbys to escape. 
These pieces were called "Chronicles," and although rude 
and coarse, they served the purpose designed by their 
author of bringing public ridicule down on the heads of his 
victims. They were written in an attempted scriptural 
vein, and on so many different subjects that one might con- 
sistently call them "social ventilators." Their grossness 
must have been warmly appreciated by the early denizens 
of Gentryville, for the descendants of the latter up to this 
day have taken care that they should not be buried from 
sight under the dust of long-continued forgetfulness. I 
reproduce here, exactly as I obtained it, the particular 
chapter of the "Chronicles" which reflected on the Grigsbys 
so severely, and which must serve as a sample of all the 

The original chapter in Lincoln's handwriting came to 
light in a singular manner after having been hidden or lost 
for years. Shortly before my trip to Indiana in 1865 a 
carpenter in Gentryville was rebuilding a house belonging 
to one of the Grigsbys. While so engaged his son and 
assistant had climbed through the ceiling to the inner side 


of the roof to tear away some of the timbers, and there 
found, tucked away under the end of a rafter, a bundle of 
yellow and dust-covered papers. Carefully withdrawing 
them from their hiding-place he opened and was slowly 
deciphering them, when his father, struck by the boy's 
silence, and hearing no evidence of work, inquired of him 
what he was doing. "Reading a portion of the Scriptures 
that haven't been revealed yet," was the response. He had 
found the "Chronicles of Reuben." 2 

Reuben and Charles Grigsby on the same day married 
Betsy Ray and Matilda Hawkins respectively. The day 
following they with their brides returned to the Grigsby 
mansion, where the father, Reuben Grigsby senior, gave 
them a cordial welcome. Here an old-fashioned infare, 
with feasting and dancing, and the still older fashion of 
putting the bridal party to bed, took place. When the 
invitations to these festivities were issued Abe was left 
out, and the slight led him to furnish an appreciative 
circle in Gentryville with what he was pleased to term "The 
First Chronicles of Reuben." 

Lincoln had shrewdly persuaded some one who was on 
the inside at the infare to slip upstairs while the feasting 
was at its height and change the beds, which Mamma 
Grigsby had carefully arranged in advance. The transpo- 
sition of beds produced a comedy of errors which gave 
Lincoln as much satisfaction and joy as the Grigsby house- 
hold embarrassment and chagrin. 3 

"Now there was a man," begins this memorable chapter 
of backwoods lore, "whose name was Reuben, and the same 
was very great in substance ; in horses and cattle and swine, 
and a very great household. It came to pass when the sons 
of Reuben grew up that they were desirous of taking to 
themselves wives, and being too well known as to honor 
in their own country they took a journey into a far 
country and there procured for themselves wives. It came 
to pass also that when they were about to make the return 
home they sent a messenger before them to bear the tid- 

2 Original footnote. 


ings to their parents. These, inquiring of the messengers 
what time their sons and wives would come, made a great 
feast and called all their kinsmen and neighbors in and 
made great preparations. When the time drew nigh they 
sent out two men to meet the grooms and their brides 
with a trumpet to welcome them and to accompany them. 
When they came near unto the house of Reuben the father, 
the messenger came on before them and gave a shout, and 
the whole multitude ran out with shouts of joy and music, 
playing on all kinds of instruments. Some were playing 
on harps, some on viols, and some blowing on rams' horns. 
Some also were casting dust and ashes towards heaven, and 
chief among them all was Josiah, blowing his bugle and 
making sound so great the neighboring hills and valleys 
echoed with the resounding acclamation. When they had 
played and their harps had sounded till the grooms and 
brides approached the gates, Reuben the father met them 
and welcomed them to his house. The wedding feast being 
now ready they were all invited to sit down to eat, placing 
the bridegrooms and their wives at each end of the table. 
Waiters were then appointed to serve and wait on the 
guests. When all had eaten and were full and merry they 
went out again and played and sung till night, and when 
they had made an end of feasting and rejoicing the multi- 
tude dispersed, each going to his own home. The family 
then took seats with their waiters to converse while prep- 
arations were being made in an upper chamber for the 
brides and grooms to be conveyed to their beds. This be- 
ing done the waiters took the two brides upstairs, placing 
one in a bed at the right hand of the stairs and the other 
on the left. The waiters came down, and Nancy the mother 
then gave directions to the waiters of the bridegrooms, and 
they took them upstairs but placed them in the wrong beds. 
The waiters then all came downstairs. But the mother, 
being fearful of a mistake, made inquiry of the waiters, 
and learning the true facts took the light and sprang up- 
stairs. It came to pass she ran to one of the beds and 
exclaimed, 'O Lord, Reuben, you are in bed with the wrong 


wife/ The young men, both alarmed at this, sprang up 
out of bed and ran with such violence against each other 
they came near knocking each other down. The tumult 
gave evidence to those below that the mistake was certain. 
At last they all came down and had a long conversation 
about who made the mistake, but it could not be decided. 
So endeth the chapter." 

The reader will readily discern that the waiters had been 
carefully drilled by Lincoln in advance for the parts they 
were to perform in this rather unique piece of backwoods 
comedy. He also improved the rare opportunity which 
presented itself of caricaturing "Blue Nose" Crawford, 
who had exacted of him such an extreme penalty for the 
damage done to his Weems' Life of Washington. He is 
easily identified as "Josiah blowing his bugle." The latter 
was also the husband of my informant, Mrs. Elizabeth 
Crawford. 4 

As the reader will naturally conclude, the revelation of 
this additional chapter of the Scriptures stirred up the 
social lions of Gentryville to the fighting point. Nothing 
but the blood of the author, who was endeavoring to escape 
public attention under the anonymous cloak, would satisfy 
the vengeance of the Grigsbys and their friends. But 
while the latter were discussing the details of discovery and 
punishment, the versatile young satirist was at work finish- 
ing up William, the remaining member of the Grigsby 
family, who had so far escaped the sting of his pen. The 
lines of rhyme in which William's weaknesses are handed 
down to posterity, Mrs. Crawford had often afterwards 
heard Abe recite, but she was very reluctant from a feeling 
of modesty to furnish them to me. At last, through the 
influence of her son, I overcame her scruples and obtained 
the coveted verses. A glance at them will convince the 
reader that the people of a community who could tolerate 
these lines would certainly not be surprised or offended at 
anything that might be found in the "Chronicles." 

4 Original footnote. 


"I will tell you a joke about Joel and Mary, 
It is neither a joke nor a story, 
For Reuben and Charles have married two girls, 
But Billy has married a boy. 
The girls he had tried on every side, 
But none could he get to agree; 
All was in vain, he went home again, 
And since that he's married to Natty. 

So Billy and Natty agreed very well, 

And mamma's well pleased with the match. 

The egg it is laid, but Natty's afraid 

The shell is so soft it never will hatch, 

But Betsy, she said, 'You cursed bald head, 

My suitor you never can be, 

Besides your ill shape proclaims you an ape, 

And that never can answer for me.' " 

That these burlesques and the publicity they attained 
aroused all the ire in the Grigsby family, and eventually 
made Abe the object on which their fury was spent is not 
surprising in the least. It has even been contended, and with 
some show of truth too, that the fight between John John- 
ston and William Grigsby was the outgrowth of these cari- 
catures, and that Abe forebore measuring strength with 
Grigsby, who was considered his physical inferior, and 
selected Johnston to represent him and fight in his stead. 
These crude rhymes and awkward imitations of scriptural 
lore demonstrated that their author, if assailed, was merci- 
less in satire. In after years Lincoln, when driven to do 
so, used this weapon of ridicule with telling effect. He 
knew its power, and on one occasion, in the rejoinder of 
a debate, drove his opponent in tears from the platform. 

Although devoid of any natural ability as a singer Abe 
nevertheless made many efforts and had great appreciation 
of certain songs. In after years he told me he doubted if 
he really knew what the harmony of sound was. The songs 
in vogue then were principally of the sacred order. They 
were from Watts' and Dupuy's hymn-books. David Turn- 
ham furnished me with a list, marking as especial favorites 
the following : "Am I a Soldier of the Cross ;" "How 


Tedious and Tasteless the Hours;" "There is a Fountain 
Filled with Blood," and, "Alas, and did my Saviour 
Bleed?" One song pleased Abe not a little. "I used to 
sing it for old Thomas Lincoln," relates Turnham, "at 
Abe's request. The old gentleman liked it and made me 
sing it often. I can only remember one couplet : 

" 'There was a Romish lady 

She was brought up in Popery.' " 

Dennis Hanks insists that Abe used to try his hand 
and voice at "Poor old Ned," but never with any degree 
of success. "Rich, racy verses" were sung by the big 
boys in the country villages of that day with as keen a 
relish as they are today. There is no reason and less 
evidence for the belief that Abe did not partake of this 
forbidden fruit along with other boys of the same age 
and condition in life. Among what Dennis called "field 
songs" are a few lines from this one : 

"The turbaned Turk that scorns the world 
And struts about with his whiskers curled, 
For no other man but himself to see." 

Of another ballad we have this couplet: 

"Hail Columbia, happy land, 
If you ain't drunk I will be damned." 

We can imagine the merry Dennis, hilarious with the 
exhilaration of deep potations at the village grocery, singing 
this "field song" as he and Abe wended their way home- 
ward. A stanza from a campaign song which Abe was 
in the habit of rendering, according to Mrs. Crawford, at- 
tests his earliest political predilections : 

"Let auld acquaintance be forgot 

And never brought to mind, 
May Jackson be our president, 
And Adams left behind." 

A mournful and distressing ballad, "John Anderson's 
Lamentation," as rendered by Abe, was written out for me 
by Mrs. Crawford, but the first lines, 


"Oh, sinners, poor sinners, take warning by me, 
The fruits of transgression behold now and see," 

will suffice to indicate how mournful the rest of it was. 

The centre of wit and wisdom in the village of Gentry- 
ville was at the store. This place was in charge of one 
Jones, who soon after embarking in business seemed to 
take quite a fancy to Abe. He took the only newspaper — 
sent from Louisville — and at his place of business gathered 
Abe, Dennis Hanks, Baldwin, the blacksmith, and other 
kindred spirits to discuss such topics as are the exclusive 
property of the store lounger. Abe's original and ridicu- 
lous stories not only amused the crowd, but the display of 
his unique faculties made him many friends. One who 
saw him at this time says : 

"Lincoln would frequently make political speeches to the 
boys; he was always calm, logical, and clear. His jokes 
and stories were so odd, original, and witty all the people 
in town would gather around him. He would keep them 
till midnight. Abe was a good talker, a good reasoner, 
and a kind of newsboy." He attended all the trials before 
the "squire," as that important functionary was called, 
and frequently wandered off to Boonville, a town on the 
river, distant fifteen miles, and the county seat of Warrick 
County, to hear and see how the courts were conducted 
there. On one occasion, at the latter place, he remained 
during the trial of a murderer and attentively absorbed the 
proceedings. A lawyer named Breckenridge represented 
the defense, and his speech so pleased and thrilled his 
young listener that the latter could not refrain from ap- 
proaching the eloquent advocate at the close of his address 
and congratulating him on his signal success. How 
Breckenridge accepted the felicitations of the awkward, 
hapless youth we shall probably never know. The story- 
is told that during Lincoln's term as President, he was 
favored one day at the White House with a visit by this 
same Breckenridge, then a resident of Texas, who had 
called to pay his respects. In a conversation about early 
days in Indiana, the President, recalling Breckenridge's 


argument in the murder trial, remarked, "If I could, as I 
then thought, have made as good a speech as that, my soul 
would have been satisfied; for it was up to that time the 
best speech I had ever heard." 

No feature of his backwoods life pleased Abe so well 
as going to mill. It released him from a day's work in 
the woods, besides affording him a much desired opportu- 
nity to watch the movement of the mill's primitive and 
cumbersome machinery. It was on many of these trips 
that David Turnham accompanied him. In later years Mr. 
Lincoln related the following reminiscence of his expe- 
rience as a miller in Indiana: One day, taking a bag of 
corn, he mounted the old flea-bitten gray mare and rode 
leisurely to Gordon's mill. Arriving somewhat late, his 
turn did not come till almost sundown. In obedience to 
the custom requiring each man to furnish his own power 
he hitched the old mare to the arm, and as the animal 
moved round, the machinery responded with equal speed. 
Abe was mounted on the arm, and at frequent intervals 
made use of his whip to urge the animal on to better 
speed. With a careless "Get up, you old hussy," he ap- 
plied the lash at each revolution of the arm. In the midst 
of the exclamation, or just as half of it had escaped through 
his teeth, the old jade, resenting the continued use of the 
goad, elevated her shoeless hoofs and striking the young 
engineer in the forehead, sent him sprawling to the earth. 
Miller Gordon hurried in, picked up the bleeding, sense- 
less boy, whom he took for dead, and at once sent for his 
father. Old Thomas Lincoln came — came as soon as em- 
bodied listlessness could move — loaded the lifeless boy in 
a wagon and drove home. Abe lay unconscious all night, 
but towards break of day the attendants noticed signs of 
returning consciousness. The blood beginning to flow nor- 
mally, his tongue struggled to loosen itself, his frame 
jerked for an instant, and he awoke, blurting out the 
words "you old hussy," or the latter half of the sentence 
interrupted by the mare's heel at the mill. 

Mr. Lincoln considered this one of the remarkable in- 
cidents of his life. He often referred to it, and we had 



many discussions in our law office over the psychological 
phenomena involved in the operation. Without expressing 
my own views I may say that his idea was that the latter 
half of the expression, "Get up, you old hussy," was cut 
off by a suspension of the normal flow of his mental en- 
ergy, and that as soon as life's forces returned he uncon- 
sciously ended the sentence; or, as he in a plainer figure 
put it : "Just before I struck the old mare my will through 
the mind had set the muscles of my tongue to utter the 
expression, and when her heels came in contact with my 
head the whole thing stopped half-cocked, as it were, and 
was only fired off when mental energy or force returned." 

By the time he had reached his seventeenth year he had 
attained the physical proportions of a full-grown man. He 
was employed to assist James Taylor in the management 
of a ferry-boat across the Ohio River near the mouth of 
Anderson's Creek, but was not allowed a man's wages for 
the work. He received thirty-seven cents a day for what 
he afterwards told me was the roughest work a young 
man could be made to do. In the midst of whatever work 
he was engaged on he still found time to utilize his pen. 
He prepared a composition on the American Government, 
calling attention to the necessity of preserving the Consti- 
tution and prepetuating the Union, which with character- 
istic modesty he turned over to his friend and patron, Wil- 
liam Woods, for safe-keeping and perusal. 

Through the instrumentality of Woods it attracted the 
attention of many persons, among them one Pitcher, a 
lawyer at Rockport, who with faintly concealed enthu- 
siasm declared "the world couldn't beat it." An article 
on Temperance was shown under similar circumstance to 
Aaron Farmer, a Baptist preacher of local renown, and by 
him furnished to an Ohio newspaper for publication. The 
thing, however, which gave him such prominence — a prom- 
inence too which could have been attained in no other 
way — was his remarkable physical strength, for he was 
becoming not only one of the longest, but one of the 
strongest men around Gentryville. He enjoyed the brief 
distinction his exhibitions of strength gave him more than 


the admiration of his friends for his literary or forensic 
efforts. Some of the feats attributed to him almost sur- 
pass belief. One witness declares he was equal to three 
men, having on a certain occasion carried a load of six 
hundred pounds. At another time he walked away with 
a pair of logs which three robust men were skeptical of 
their ability to carry. "He could strike with a maul a 
heavier blow — could sink an axe deeper into wood than 
any man I ever saw," is the testimony of another witness. 

John Pitcher, who read Lincoln's composition on the 
American Government, is still living, at the age of ninety- 
three, in Mount Vernon, Indiana. He says that young 
Lincoln often called at his office and borrowed books to 
read at home during leisure hours. On one occasion he 
expressed a desire to study law with Pitcher, but explained 
that his parents were so poor that he could not be spared 
from the farm on which they lived. "He related to me in 
my office one day," says Pitcher, "an account of his pay- 
ment to Crawford of the damage done to the latter 's book 
— Weems' Life of Washington. Lincoln said, 'You see, 
I am tall and long-armed, and I went to work in earnest. 
At the end of the two days there was not a corn-blade 
left on a stalk in the field. I wanted to pay full damage 
for all the wetting the book got, and I made a clean 
sweep.' " 5 

After he had passed his nineteenth year and was near- 
ing his majority he began to chafe and grow restless un- 
der the restraints of home rule. Seeing no prospect of 
betterment in his condition, so long as his fortune was in- 
terwoven with that of his father, he at last endeavored 
to strike out into the broad world for himself. Having 
great faith in the judgment and influence of his fast friend 
Wood, he solicited from him a recommendation to the 
officers of some one of the boats plying up and down the 
river, hoping thereby to obtain employment more con- 
genial than the dull, fatiguing work of the farm. To this 
project the judicious Wood was much opposed, and there- 
fore suggested to the would-be boatman the moral duty 

5 Original footnote. 


that rested on him to remain with his father till the law 
released him from that obligation. With deep regret he 
retraced his steps to the paternal mansion, seriously de- 
termined not to evade the claim from which in a few 
weary months he would be finally released. Meanwhile 
occurred his first opportunity to see the world. In March, 
1828, James Gentry, for whom he had been at work, had 
fitted out a boat with a stock of grain and meat for a 
trading expedition to New Orleans, and placed his son 
Allen in charge of the cargo for the voyage. Abe's de- 
sire to make a river trip was at last satisfied, and he ac- 
companied the proprietor's son, serving as "bow hand." 
His pay was eight dollars a month and board. In due 
course of time the navigators returned from their expe- 
dition with the evidence of profitable results to gladden 
the heart of the owner. The only occurrence of interest 
they could relate of the voyage was the encounter with 
a party of marauding negroes at the plantation of Madame 
Duchesne, a few miles below Baton Rouge. Abe and 
Gentry, having tied up for the night, were fast asleep on 
their boat when aroused by the arrival of a crowd of 
negroes bent on plunder. They set to work with clubs, 
and not only drove off the intruders, but pursued them 
inland, then hastily returning to their quarters they cut 
loose their craft and floated down-stream till daylight. 

Before passing on further it may not be amiss to glance 
for a moment at the social side of life as it existed in 
Gentryville in Abe's day. "We thought nothing," said 
an old lady whom I interviewed when in Indiana, "of 
going eight or ten miles to church. The ladies did not 
stop for the want of a shawl, cloak, or riding-dress in 
winter time, but would put on their husbands' old over- 
coats and wrap up their little ones and take one or two 
of them on their beasts. Their husbands would walk, 
and thus they would go to church, frequently remaining 
till the second day before they returned home." 

The old men starting from the fields and out of the 
woods would carry their guns on their shoulders and go 
also. They dressed in deer-skin pants, moccasins, and 


coarse hunting shirts — the latter usually fastened with a 
rope or leather strap. Arriving at the house where serv- 
ices were to be held they would recite to each other thrill- 
ing stories of their hunting exploits, and smoke their pipes 
with the old ladies. They were treated, and treated each 
other, with the utmost kindness. A bottle of liquor, a 
pitcher of water, sugar, and glasses were set out for them ; 
also a basket of apples or turnips, with, now and then, a 
pie or cakes. Thus they regaled themselves till the preacher 
found himself in a condition to begin. The latter, hav- 
ing also partaken freely of the refreshments provided, 
would "take his stand, draw his coat, open his shirt col- 
lar, read his text, and preach and pound till the sweat, 
produced alike by his exertions and the exhilerating ef- 
fects of the toddy, rolled from his face in great drops. 
Shaking hands and singing ended the service." 

The houses were scattered far apart, but the people 
traveled great distances to participate in the frolic and 
coarse fun of a log-rolling and sometimes a wedding. 
Unless in mid-winter the young ladies carried their shoes 
in their hands, and only put them on when the scene of the 
festivities was reached. The ladies of maturer years 
drank whiskey toddy, while the men took the whiskey 
straight. They all danced merrily, many of them bare- 
footed, to the tune of a cracked fiddle the night through. 
We can imagine the gleeful and more hilarious swag- 
gering home at daybreak to the tune of Dennis Hanks' fes- 
tive lines: 

"Hail Columbia, happy land, 
If you ain't drunk I will be damned." 

Although gay, prosperous, and light-hearted, these 
people were brimming over with superstition. It was at 
once their food and drink. They believed in the baneful 
influence of witches, pinned their faith to the curative 
power of wizards in dealing with sick animals, and 
shot the image of a witch with a silver ball to break the 
spell she was supposed to have over human beings. They 
followed with religious minuteness the directions of the 


water-wizard, with his magic divining rod, and the faith 
doctor who wrought miraculous cures by strange sounds 
and signals to some mysterious agency. The flight of a 
bird in at the window, the breath of a horse on a child's 
head, the crossing by a dog of a hunter's path, all be- 
tokened evil luck in store for some one. The moon exer- 
cised greater influence on the actions of the people and 
the growth of vegetation than the sun and all the plane- 
tary system combined. Fence rails could only be cut in 
the light of the moon, and potatoes planted in the dark 
of the moon. Trees and plants which bore their fruit 
above ground could be planted when the moon shone full. 
Soap could only be made in the light of the moon, and it 
must only be stirred in one way and by one person. They 
had the horror of Friday which with many exists to this 
day. Nothing was to be begun on that unlucky day, for 
if the rule were violated an endless train of disasters was 
sure to follow. 

Surrounded by people who believed in these things, Lin- 
coln grew to manhood. With them he walked, talked, and 
labored, and from them he also absorbed whatever of su- 
perstition showed itself in him thereafter. His early Bap- 
tist training made him a fatalist up to the day of his death, 
and, listening in boyish wonder to the legends of some 
toothless old dame led him to believe in the significance 
of dreams and visions. His surroundings helped to create 
that unique character which in the eyes of a great portion 
of the American people was only less curious and amus- 
ing than it was august and noble. 

The winter of 1829 was marked by another visitation 
of that dreaded disease, "the milk-sick." It was making 
the usual ravages among the cattle. Human victims were 
falling before it every day, and it caused the usual stam- 
pede in southern Indiana. Dennis Hanks, discouraged by 
the prospect and grieving over the loss of his stock, pro- 
posed a move further westward. Returning emigrants 
had brought encouraging news of the newly developed 
state of Illinois. Vast stretches of rich alluvial lands were 
to be had there on the easiest of terms. 


Besides this, Indiana no longer afforded any induce- 
ments to the poor man. The proposition of Dennis met 
with the general assent of the Lincoln family, and espe- 
cially suited the roving and migratory spirit of Thomas 
Lincoln. He had been induced to leave Kentucky for the 
hills of Indiana by the same rosy and alluring reports. 
He had moved four times since his marriage and in point 
of worldly goods was not better off than when he started 
in life. His land groaned under the weight of a long 
neglected incumbrance 6 and, like many of his neighbors, 
he was ready for another change. Having disposed of his 
land to James Gentry, and his grain and stock to young 
David Turnham, he loaded his household effects into a 
wagon drawn by two yoke of oxen, and in March, 1830, 
started for Illinois. The two daughters of Mrs. Lincoln 
had meanwhile married Dennis Hanks and Levi Hall, and 
with these additions the party numbered thirteen in all. 
Abe had just passed his twenty-first birthday. 

The journey was a long and tedious one; the streams 
were swollen and the roads were muddy almost to the point 
of impassability. The rude, heavy wagon, with its primi- 
tive wheels, creaked and groaned as it crawled through the 
woods and now and then stalled in the mud. Many were 
the delays, but none ever disturbed the equanimity of its 
passengers. They were cheerful in the face of all adver- 
sity, hopeful, and some of them determined ; but none of 
them more so than the tall, ungainly youth in buck-skin 
breeches and coon-skin cap who wielded the gad and 
urged the patient oxen forward. 

Mr. Lincoln once described this journey to me. He 
said the ground had not yet yielded up the frosts of win- 
ter ; that during the day the roads would thaw out on the 
surface and at night freeze over again, thus making travel- 
ing, especially with oxen, painfully slow and tiresome. 
There were, of course, no bridges, and the party were 

6 Herndon is in error here. Thomas Lincoln had originally 
entered one hundred and sixty acres in Indiana, but he succeeded 
in paying- for eighty acres only. The title to the eighty was 
clear, however. 


consequently driven to ford the streams, unless by a cir- 
cuitous route they could avoid them. In the latter part of 
the day the latter were also frozen slightly, and the oxen 
would break through a square yard of thin ice at every 
step. Among other things which the party brought with 
them was a pet dog, which trotted along after the wagon. 
One day the little fellow fell behind and failed to catch 
up till after they had crossed the stream. Missing him 
they looked back, and there, on the opposite bank, he stood, 
whining and jumping about in great distress. The water 
was running over the broken edges of the ice, and the 
poor animal was afraid to cross. It would not pay to turn 
the oxen and wagon back and ford the stream again in 
order to recover a dog, and so the majority, in their 
anxiety to move forward, decided to go on without him. 
"But I could not endure the idea of abandoning even a 
dog," related Lincoln. "Pulling ofr shoes and socks I 
waded across the stream and triumphantly returned with 
the shivering animal under my arm. His frantic leaps 
of joy and other evidences of a dog's gratitude amply re- 
paid me for all the exposure I had undergone." ' 

As these humble emigrants entered the new State little 
did the curious people in the towns through which they 
passed dream that the obscure and penniless driver who 
yelled commands to the oxen would yet become Chief 
Magistrate of the greatest nation of modern times. 

7 Original footnote. 



colony of Indiana emigrants reached a point in Illinois five 
miles north-west of the town of Decatur in Macon County. 
John Hanks, son of that Joseph Hanks in whose shop at 
Elizabethtown Thomas Lincoln had learned what he knew 
of the carpenter's art, met and sheltered them until they 
were safely housed on a piece of land which he had 
selected for them five miles further westward. He had 
preceded them over a year, and had in the meantime hewed 
out a few timbers to be used in the construction of their 
cabin. The place he had selected was on a bluff overlook- 
ing the Sangamon River, — for these early settlers must 
always be in sight of a running stream, — well supplied 
with timber. It was a charming and picturesque site, and 
all hands set resolutely to work to prepare the new abode. 
One felled the trees ; one hewed the timbers for the cabin ; 
while another cleared the ground of its accumulated growth 
of underbrush. All was bustle and activity. Even old 
Thomas Lincoln, infused with the spirit of the hour, was 
spurred to unwonted exertion. What part of the work fell 
to his lot our only chronicler, John Hanks, fails to note; 
but it is conjectured from the old gentleman's experience 
in the art of building that his services corresponded to those 
of the more modern supervising architect. With the aid 
of the oxen and a plow John and Abe broke up fifteen 
acres of sod, and "Abe and myself," observes Hanks in 
a matter-of-fact way, "split rails enough to fence the place 
in." As they swung their axes, or with wedge and maul 
split out the rails, how strange to them the thought would 
have seemed that those self-same rails were destined to 


make one of them immortal. If such a vision flashed be- 
fore the mind of either he made no sign of it, but each kept 
steadily on in his simple, unromantic task. 

Abe had now attained his majority and began to throw 
from his shoulders the vexations of parental restraint. He 
had done his duty to his father, and felt able to begin life 
on his own account. As he steps out into the broad and 
inviting world we take him up for consideration as a man. 
At the same time we dispense with further notice of his 
father, Thomas Lincoln. In the son are we alone inter- 
ested. The remaining years of his life marked no change 
in the old gentleman's nature. He still listened to the glow- 
ing descriptions of prosperity in the adjoining counties, 
and before his death moved three times in search of better 
times and a healthy location. In 1851 we find him living 
on forty acres of land on Goose Nest prairie, in Coles 
County, Illinois. The land bore the usual incumbrance — a 
mortgage for two hundred dollars, which his son after- 
wards paid. On the 17th of January, after suffering for 
many weeks from a disorder of the kidneys, he passed 
away at the ripe old age — as his son tells us — of "seventy- 
three years and eleven days." 

For a long time after beginning life on his own account 
Abe remained in sight of the parental abode. He worked 
at odd jobs in the neighborhood, or wherever the demand 
for his services called him. As late as 1831 he was still 
in the same parts, and John Hanks is authority for the 
statement that he "made three thousand rails for Major 
Warnick" walking daily three miles to his work. During 
the intervals of leisure he read the few books obtainable, 
and continued the practice of extemporaneous speaking to 
the usual audience of undemonstrative stumps and voice- 
less trees. His first attempt at public speaking after 
landing in Illinois is thus described to me by John Hanks, 
whose language I incorporate : "After Abe got to Decatur, 
or rather to Macon County, a man by the name of Posey 
came into our neighborhood and made a speech. It was a 
bad one, and I said Abe could beat it. I turned down a 
box and Abe made his speech. The other man was a can- 


didate — Abe wasn't. Abe beat him to death, his subject 
being the navigation of the Sangamon River. The man, 
after Abe's speech was through, took him aside and asked 
him where he had learned so much and how he could do 
so well. Abe replied, stating his manner and method of 
reading, and what he had read. The man encouraged him 
to persevere." 

For the first time we are now favored with the appear- 
ance on the scene of a very important personage — one 
destined to exert no little influence in shaping Lincoln's 
fortunes. It is Denton Offut, a brisk and venturesome 
business man, whose operations extended up and down the 
Sangamon River for many miles. Having heard glowing 
reports of John Hanks' successful experience as a boatman 
in Kentucky he had come down the river to engage the 
latter's services to take a boat-load of stock and provi- 
sions to New Orleans. "He wanted me to go badly," 
observes Hanks, "but I waited awhile before answering. I 
hunted up Abe, and I introduced him and John Johnston, 
his step-brother, to Offut. After some talk we at last made 
an engagement with Offut at fifty cents a day and sixty 
dollars to make the trip to New Orleans. Abe and I came 
down the Sangamon River in a canoe in March, 1831 ; 
landed at what is now called Jamestown, five miles east of 
Springfield, then known as Judy's Ferry." Here Johnston 
joined them, and, leaving their canoe in charge of one Uriah 
Mann, they walked to Springfield, where after some in- 
quiry they found the genial and enterprising Offut regaling 
himself with the good cheer dispensed at "The Buckhorn" 
inn. This hostelry, kept by Andrew Elliot, was the leading 
place of its kind in the then unpretentious village of 
Springfield. The figure of a buck's head painted on a sign 
swinging in front of the house gave rise to its name. Offut 
had agreed with Hanks to have a boat ready for him and 
his two companions at the mouth of Spring Creek on their 
arrival, but too many deep potations with the new-comers 
who daily thronged about the "Buckhorn" had interfered 
with the execution of his plans, and the boat still re- 
mained in the womb of the future. Offut met the three ex- 


pectant navigators on their arrival, and deep were his re- 
grets over his failure to provide the boat. The interview 
resulted in the trio engaging to make the boat themselves. 
From what was known as "Congress land" they obtained 
an abundance of timber, and by the aid of the machinery at 
Kirkpatrick's mill they soon had the requisite material for 
their vessel. While the work of construction was going on 
a shanty was built in which they were lodged. Lincoln was 
elected cook, a distinction he never under-estimated for a 
moment. Within four weeks the boat was ready to launch. 
Offut was sent for, and was present when she slid into 
the water. It was the occasion of much political chat and 
buncombe, in which the Whig party and Jackson alike 
were, strangely enough, lauded to the skies. It is difficult 
to account for the unanimous approval of such strikingly 
antagonistic ideas, unless it be admitted that Offut must 
have brought with him some substantial reminder of the 
hospitality on draught at the "Buckhorn" inn. Many dis- 
putes arose, we are told, in which Lincoln took part and 
found a good field for practice and debate. 

A traveling juggler halted long enough in Sangamon- 
town, where the boat was launched, to give an exhibition 
of his art and dexterity in the loft of Jacob Carman's 
house. In Lincoln's low-crowned, broad-brimmed hat the 
magician cooked eggs. As explanatory of the delay in 
passing up his hat Lincoln drolly observed, "It was out of 
respect for the eggs, not care for my hat." 

Having loaded the vessel with pork in barrels, corn, 
and hogs, these sturdy boatmen swung out into the stream. 
On April 19 they reached the town of New Salem, a place 
destined to be an important spot in the career of Lincoln. 
There they met with their first serious delay. The boat 
stranded on Rutledge's mill-dam and hung helplessly over it 
a day and a night. "We unloaded the boat," narrated one 
of the crew to explain how they obtained relief from their 
embarrassing situation ; "that is, we transferred the goods 
from our boat to a borrowed one. We then rolled the 
barrels forward ; Lincoln bored a hole in the end [pro- 
jecting] over the dam; the water which had leaked in ran 


out and we slid over." Offut was profoundly impressed 
with this exhibition of Lincoln's ingenuity. In his enthusi- 
asm he declared to the crowd who covered the hill and who 
had been watching Lincoln's operation that he would build 
a steamboat to plow up and down the Sangamon, and that 
Lincoln should be her Captain. She would have rollers for 
shoals and dams, runners for ice, and with Lincoln in 
charge, "By thunder, she'd have to go !" 

After release from their embarrassing, not to say peril- 
ous, position the boat and her crew floated away from 
New Salem and passed on to a point known as Blue Banks, 
where as the historian of the voyage says : "We had to load 
some hogs bought of Squire Godbey. We tried to drive 
them aboard, but could not. They would run back past 
us. Lincoln then suggested that we sew their eyes shut. 
Thinking to try it, we caught them, Abe holding their 
heads and I their tails while Offut sewed up their eyes. 
Still they wouldn't drive. At last, becoming tired, we 
carried them to the boat. Abe received them and cut 
open their eyes, Johnston and I handing them to him." 
After thus disposing of the hog problem they again swung 
loose and floated down-stream. From the Sangamon they 
passed to the Illinois. At Beardstown their unique craft, 
with its "sails made of planks and cloth," excited the 
amusement and laughter of those who saw them from the 
shore. Once on the bosom of the broad Mississippi they 
glided past Alton, St. Louis, and Cairo in rapid succession, 
tied up for a day at Memphis, and made brief stops at 
Vicksburg and Natchez. Early in May they reached New 
Orleans, where they lingered a month, disposing of their 
cargo and viewing the sights which the Crescent City 

In New Orleans, for the first time Lincoln beheld the 
true horrors of human slavery. He saw "negroes in 
chains — whipped and scourged." Agains this inhumanity 
his sense of right and justice rebelled, and his mind and 
conscience were awakened to a realization of what he had 
often heard and read. No doubt, as one of his compan- 
ions has said, "Slavery ran the iron into him then and 


there." One morning in their rambles over the city the 
trio passed a slave auction. A vigorous and comely mulat- 
to girl was being sold. She underwent a thorough exami- 
nation at the hands of the bidders ; they pinched her flesh 
and made her trot up and down the room like a horse, to 
show how she moved, and in order, as the auctioneer said, 
that "bidders might satisfy themselves" whether the article 
they were offering to buy was sound or not. The whole 
thing was so revolting that Lincoln moved away from the 
scene with a deep feeling of "unconquerable hate." Bid- 
ding his companions follow him he said, "By God, boys, 
let's get away from this. If ever I get a chance to hit that 
thing [meaning slavery], I'll hit it hard." This incident 
was furnished me in 1865, by John Hanks. 1 I have also 
heard Mr. Lincoln refer to it himself. 

In June the entire party, including Offut, boarded a 
steamboat going up the river. At St. Louis they disem- 
barked, Offut remaining behind while Lincoln, Hanks, and 
Johnston started across Illinois on foot. At Edwardsville 
they separated, Hanks going to Springfield, while Lincoln 
and his step-brother followed the road to Coles County, to 
which point old Thomas Lincoln had meanwhile removed. 
Here Abe did not tarry long, probably not over a month, 
but long enough to dispose most effectually of one Daniel 
Needham, a famous wrestler who had challenged the re- 
turned boatman to a test of strength. The contest took 
place at a locality known as "Wabash Point." Abe threw 
his antagonist twice with comparative ease, and thereby 
demonstrated such marked strength and agility as to render 
him forever popular with the boys of that neighborhood. 

In August the waters of the Sangamon River washed 
Lincoln in to New Salem. This once sprightly and thriv- 

1 In one of his autobiographical statements Lincoln remarks 
that John Hanks went no further than St. Louis on this trip. 
Nevertheless, it is likely that Lincoln witnessed some such scene 
as Hanks described. That he was greatly affected by it is very 
doubtful, since it was many years before he was to exhibit par- 
ticular concern over the slavery problem. 


ing village is no longer in existence. Not a building, 
scarcely a stone, is left to mark the place where it once 
stood. To reach it now the traveler must ascend a bluff 
a hundred feet above the general level of the surrounding 
country. The brow of the ridge, two hundred and fifty 
feet broad where it overlooks the river, widens gradually 
as it extends westwardly to the forest and ultimately to 
broad pastures. Skirting the base of the bluff is the 
Sangamon River, which, coming around a sudden bend 
from the south-east, strikes the rocky hill and is turned 
abruptly north. Here is an old mill, driven by water- 
power, and reaching across the river is the mill-dam on 
which Offut's vessel hung stranded in April, 1831. As the 
river rolled her turbid waters over the dam, plunging them 
into the whirl and eddy beneath, the roar of waters, like 
low, continuous, distant thunder, could be distinctly heard 
through the village day and night. 

The country in almost every direction is diversified by 
alternate stretches of hills and level lands, with streams 
between each struggling to reach the river. The hills are 
bearded with timber — oak, hickory, walnut, ash, and elm. 
Below them are stretches of rich alluvial bottom land, and 
the eye ranges over a vast expanse of foliage, the monot- 
ony of which is relieved by the alternating swells and de- 
pressions of the landscape. Between peak and peak, 
through its bed of limestone, sand, and clay, sometimes 
kissing the feet of one bluff and then hugging the other, 
rolls the Sangamon River. The village of New Salem, 
which once stood on the ridge, was laid out in 1828; it 
became a trading place, and in 1836 contained twenty 
houses and a hundred inhabitants. In the days of land 
offices and stage-coaches it was a sprightly village with a 
busy market. Its' people were progressive and industrious. 
Propitious winds filled the sails of its commerce, pros- 
perity smiled graciously on its every enterprise, and the 
outside world encouraged its social pretensions. It had 
its day of glory, but, singularly enough, contemporaneous 
with the departure of Lincoln from its midst it went into a 


rapid decline. A few crumbling stones here and there are 
all that attest its former existence. 2 "How it vanished," 
observes one writer, "like a mist in the morning, to what 
distant places its inhabitants dispersed, and what became 
of the abodes they left behind, shall be questions for the 
local historian." 

Lincoln's return to New Salem in August, 1831, was, 
within a few days, contemporaneous with the reappearance 
of Offut, who made the gratifying announcement that he 
had purchased a stock of goods which were to follow him 
from Beardstown. He had again retained the services of 
Lincoln to assist him when his merchandise should come to 
hand. The tall stranger — destined to be a stranger in 
New Salem no longer — pending the arrival of his em- 
ployer's goods, lounged about the village with nothing to 
do. Leisure never sat heavily on him. To him there was 
nothing uncongenial in it, and he might very properly have 
been dubbed at the time a "loafer." He assured those with 
whom he came in contact that he was a piece of floating 
driftwood ; that after the winter of deep snow, he had come 
down the river with the freshet ; borne along by the swell- 
ing waters, and aimlessly floating about, he had acciden- 
tally lodged at New Salem. Looking back over his history 
we are forced to conclude that Providence or chance, or 
whatever power is responsible for it, could not have as- 
signed him to a more favorable refuge. 

His introduction to the citizens of New Salem, as Men- 
tor Graham the schoolteacher tells us, was in the capacity 
of clerk of an election board. Graham furnishes ample 
testimony of the facility, fairness, and honesty which char- 
acterized the new clerk's work, and both teacher and clerk 
were soon bound together by the warmest of ties. During 
the day, when votes were coming in slowly, Lincoln began 
to entertain the crowd at the polls with a few attempts at 

2 The site of the village of New Salem has been acquired by 
the State of Illinois and made into a State Park. Several cabins 
have been reconstructed, and the complete restoration of the 
village is planned. 


story-telling. My cousin, J. R. Herndon, was present and 
enjoyed this feature of the election with the keenest relish. 
He never forgot some of Lincoln's yarns and was fond of 
repeating them in after years. The recital of a few stories 
by Lincoln easily established him in the good graces of all 
New Salem. Perhaps he did not know it at the time, , 
but he had used the weapon nearest at hand and had won. ' 

"In the afternoon," my cousin relates, "as things were 
dragging a little, Lincoln the new man, began to spin out 
a stock of Indiana yarns. One that amused me more than 
any other he called the lizard story. 'The meeting-house/ 
he said, 'was in the woods and quite a distance from any 
other house. It was only used once a month. The 
preacher — an old line Baptist — was dressed in coarse linen 
pantaloons, and shirt of the same material. The pants, 
manufactured after the old fashion, with baggy legs and 
a flap in front, were made to attach to his frame without 
the aid of suspenders. A single button held his shirt in 
position, and that was at the collar. He rose up in the 
pulpit and with a loud voice announced his text thus : T 
am the Christ, whom I shall represent today.' About this 
time a little blue lizard ran up underneath his baggy pan- 
taloons. The old preacher, not wishing to interrupt the 
steady flow of his sermon, slapped away on his legs, expect- 
ing to arrest the intruder ; but his efforts were unavailing, 
and the little fellow kept on ascending higher and higher. 
Continuing the sermon, the preacher slyly loosened the 
central button which graced the waist-band of his panta- 
loons and with a kick off came that easy- fitting garment. 
But meanwhile Mr. Lizard had passed the equatorial line 
of waist-band and was calmly exploring that part of the 
preacher's anatomy which lay underneath the back of his 
shirt. Things were now growing interesting, but the ser- 
mon was still grinding on. The next movement on the 
preacher's part was for the collar button, and with one 
sweep of his arm off came the tow linen shirt. The con- 
gregation sat for an instant as if dazed ; at length one 
old lady in the rear of the room rose up and glancing at 


the excited object in the pulpit, shouted at the top of her 
voice: 'If you represent Christ then I'm done with the 
Bible'." 3 

A few days after the election Lincoln found employ- 
ment with one Dr. Nelson, who after the style of digni- 
taries of later days started with his family and effects in 
his "private" conveyance — which in this instance was a 
flat-boat — for Texas. Lincoln was hired to pilot the ves- 
sel through to the Illinois River. Arriving at Beardstown 
the pilot was discharged, and returned on foot across the 
sand and hills to New Salem. In the meantime Offut's 
long expected goods had arrived, and Lincoln was placed 
in charge. Offut relied in no slight degree on the business 
capacity of his clerk. In his effusive way he praised him 
beyond reason. He boasted of his skill as a business man 
and his wonderful intellectual acquirements. As for physi- 
cal strength and fearlessness of danger, he challenged New 
Salem and the entire world to produce his equal. In keep- 
ing with his widely known spirit of enterprise Offut rented 
the Rutledge and Cameron mill, which stood at the foot 
of the hill, and thus added another iron to keep company 
with the half-dozen already in the fire. As a further test 
of his business ability Lincoln was placed in charge of 
this also. William G. Greene was hired to assist him, 
and between the two a life-long friendship sprang up. 
They slept in the store, and so strong was the intimacy 
between them that "when one turned over the other had 
to do likewise." At the head of these varied enterprises 
was Offut, the most progressive man by all odds in the 
village. He was certainly an odd character, if we accept 
the judgment of his contemporaries. By some he is given 
the character of a clear-headed, brisk man of affairs. By 
others he is variously described as "wild, noisy, and reck- 
less," or "windy, rattle-brained, unsteady, and improvi- 
dent." Despite the unenviable traits ascribed to him he 
was good at heart and a generous friend of Lincoln. His 
boast that the latter could outrun, whip, or throw down 
any man in Sangamon County was soon tested, as we 
3 Original footnote. 


shall presently see, for, as another has truthfully expressed 
it, "honors such as Offut accorded to Abe were to be won 
before they were worn at New Salem." In the neighbor- 
hood of the village, or rather a few miles to the south- 
west, lay a strip of timber called Clary's Grove. The 
boys who lived there were a terror to the entire region — 
seemingly a necessary product of frontier civilization. 
They were friendly and good-natured ; they could trench 
a pond, dig a bog, build a house; they could pray and 
fight, make a village or create a state. They would dc 
almost anything for sport or fun, love or necessity. Though 
rude and rough, though life's forces ran over the edge 
of the bowl, foaming and sparkling in pure deviltry for 
deviltry's sake, yet place before them a poor man who 
needed their aid, a lame or sick man, a defenceless woman, 
a widow, or an orphaned child, they melted into sympathy 
and charity at once. They gave all they had, and willingly 
toiled or played cards for more. Though there never was 
under the sun a more generous parcel of rowdies, a strang- 
er's introduction was likely to be the most unpleasant part 
of his acquaintance with them. They conceded leadership 
to one Jack Armstrong, a hardy, strong, and well-devel- 
oped specimen of physical manhood, and under him they 
were in the habit of "cleaning out" New Salem whenever 
his order went forth to do so. Offut and "Bill" Clary — 
the latter skeptical of Lincoln's strength and agility — 
ended a heated discussion in the store one day over the 
new clerk's ability to meet the tactics of Clary's Grove, by 
a bet of ten dollars that Jack Armstrong was, in the lan- 
guage of the day, "a better man than Lincoln." The 
new clerk strongly opposed this sort of an introduction, 
but after much entreaty from Offut, at last consented to 
make his bow to the social lions of the town in this un- 
usual way. He was now six feet four inches high, and 
weighed, as his friend and confidant, William Greene, 
tells us with impressive precision, "two hundred and four- 
teen pounds." The contest was to be a friendly one and 
fairly conducted. All New Salem adjourned to the scene 
of the wrestle. Money, whiskey, knives, and all manner 


of property were staked on the result. It is unnecessary 
to go into the details of the encounter. Everyone knows 
how it ended ; how at last the tall and angular rail-splitter, 
enraged at the suspicion of foul tactics, and profiting by 
his height and the length of his arms, fairly lifted the great 
bully by the throat and shook him like a rag ; how by this 
act he established himself solidly in the esteem of all New 
Salem, and secured the respectful admiration and friend- 
ship of the very man whom he had so thoroughly van- 
quished. From this time forward Jack Armstrong, his 
wife Hannah, and all the other Armstrongs, became his 
warm and trusted friends. None stood readier than they 
to rally to his support, none more willing to lend a help- 
ing hand. Lincoln appreciated their friendship and sup- 
port, and in after years proved his gratitude by saving 
one member of the family from the gallows. 

Mr. Lincoln's remarkable strength resulted not so much 
from muscular power as from the toughness of his sinews. 
He could not only lift from the ground enormous weight, 
but could throw a cannon-ball or a maul farther than 
anyone else in New Salem. I heard him explain once 
how he was enabled thus to excel others. He did not at- 
tribute it to a greater proportion of physical strength, but 
contended that because of the unusual length of his arms 
the ball or projectile had a greater swing and therefore 
acquired more force and momentum than in the hands 
of an average man. 4 

The business done over Offut's counter gave his clerk 
frequent intervals of rest, so that, if so inclined, an abun- 
dance of time for study was always at his disposal. Lin- 
coln had long before realized the deficiencies of his 
education, and resolved, now that the conditions were 
^favorable, to atone for early neglect by a course of study. 
^Nothing was more apparent to him than his limited knowl- 
edge of language, and the proper way of expressing his 
ideas. Moreover, it may be said that he appreciated his 
inefficiency in a rhetorical sense, and therefore determined 
to overcome all these obstacles by mastering the intricacies 

* Original footnote. 

meserve no. 20. A photograph made by 
Mathew B. Brady in New York on February 
27, i860. It is known as the Cooper Institute 


of grammatical construction. Acting on the advice of 
Mentor Graham he hunted up one Vaner, who was the 
reputed owner of Kirkham's Grammar, and after a walk 
of several miles returned to the store with the coveted 
volume under his arm. With zealous perseverance he at 
once applied himself to the book. Sometimes he would 
stretch out at full length on the counter, his head propped 
up on a stack of calico prints, studying it; or he would 
steal away to the shade of some inviting tree, and there 
spend hours at a time in a determined effort to fix in his 
mind the arbitrary rule that "adverbs qualify verbs, ad- 
jectives, and other adverbs." From the vapidity of gram- 
mar it was now and then a great relaxation to turn to 
the more agreeable subject of mathematics ; and he might 
often have been seen lying face downwards, stretched out 
over six feet of grass, figuring out on scraps of paper 
some problem given for solution by a quizzical store 
lounger, or endeavoring to prove that, "multiplying the 
denominator of a fraction divides it, while dividing the 
denominator multiplies it." Rather a poor prospect one 
is forced to admit for a successful man of business. 

At this point in my narrative I am pained to drop from 
further notice our buoyant and effusive friend Offut. His 
business ventures failing to yield the extensive returns he 
predicted, and too many of his obligations maturing at 
the same time, he was forced to pay the penalty of com- 
mercial delinquency and went to the wall. He soon dis- 
appeared from the village, and the inhabitants thereof 
never knew whither he went. In the significant language 
of Lincoln he "petered out." As late as 1873 I received 
a letter from Dr. James Hall, a physician living at St. 
Dennis, near Baltimore, Maryland, who, referring to the 
disappearance of Offut, relates the following reminiscence : 
"Of what consequence to know or learn more of Offut I 
cannot imagine ; but be assured he turned up after leaving 
New Salem. On meeting the name it seemed familiar, 
but I could not locate him. Finally I fished up from mem- 
ory that some twenty-five years ago one 'Denton Offut' 
appeared in Baltimore, hailing from Kentucky, advertis- 


ing himself in the city papers as a veterinary surgeon and 
horse tamer, professing to have a secret to whisper in the 
horse's ear, or a secret manner of whispering in his ear, 
which he could communicate to others, and by which 
the most refractory and vicious horse could be quieted and 
controlled. For this secret he charged five dollars, bind- 
ing the recipient by oath not to divulge it. I know several 
persons, young fancy horsemen, who paid for the trick. 
Offut advertised himself not only through the press, but 
by his strange attire. He appeared in the streets on horse- 
back and on foot, in plain citizens' dress of black, but with 
a broad sash across his right shoulder, of various colored 
ribbons, crossed on his left hip under a large rosette of 
the same material, the whole rendering his appearance 
most ludicrously conspicuous. Having occasion to pur- 
chase a horse I encountered him at several of our stables 
and was strongly urged to avail myself of his secret. So 
much for Offut; but were he living in '61, I doubt not 
Mr. Lincoln would have heard of him." 

The early spring of 1832 brought to Springfield and 
New Salem a most joyful announcement. It was the news 
of the coming of a steamboat down the Sangamon River — 
proof incontestable that the stream was navigable. The 
enterprise was undertaken and carried through by Captain 
Vincent Bogue, of Springfield, who had gone to Cincin- 
nati to procure a vessel and thus settle the much-mooted 
question of the river's navigability. When, therefore, he 
notified the people of his town that the steamboat Talis- 
man would put out from Cincinnati for Springfield, we 
can well imagine what great excitement and unbounded 
enthusiasm followed the announcement. Springfield, New 
Salem, and all the other towns along the now interesting 
Sangamon were to be connected by water with the outside 
world. Public meetings, with the accompaniment of long 
subscription lists, were held ; the merchants of Springfield 
advertised the arrival of goods "direct from the East per 
steamer Talisman ;" the mails were promised as often as 
once a week from the same direction ; all the land adjoin- 
ing each enterprising and aspiring village along the river 


was subdivided into town lots — in fact, the whole region 
began to feel the stimulating effects of what, in later days, 
would have been called a "boom." I remember the oc- 
casion well, for two reasons. It was my first sight of a 
steamboat, and also the first time I ever saw Mr. Lin- 
coln — although I never became acquainted with him till 
his second race for the Legislature in 1834. In response 
to the suggestion of Captain Bogue, made from Cincin- 
nati, a number of citizens — among the number Lincoln — 
had gone down the river to Beardstown to meet the ves- 
sel as she emerged from the Illinois. These were armed 
with axes having long handles, to cut away, as Bogue had 
recommended, "branches of trees hanging over from the 
banks." After having passed New Salem, I and other 
boys on horseback followed the boat, riding along the 
river's bank as far as Bogue's mill, where she tied up. 
There we went aboard, and lost in boyish wonder, feasted 
our eyes on the splendor of her interior decorations. The 
Sangamon Journal of that period contains numerous poet- 
ical efforts celebrating the Talisman's arrival. A few 
lines under date of April 5, 1832, unsigned, but sup- 
posed to have been the product of a local poet — one 
Oliphant — were sung to the tune of "Clar de Kitchen." 
I cannot refrain from inflicting a stanza or two of this 
ode on the reader : 

"O, Captain Bogue he gave the load, 
And Captain Bogue he showed the road; 
And we came up with a right good will, 
And tied our boat up to his mill. 

Now we are up the Sangamo, 
And here we'll have a grand hurra, 
So fill your glasses to the brim, 
Of whiskey, brandy, wine, and gin. 

Illinois suckers, young and raw, 
Were strung along the Sangamo, 
To see a boat come up by steam 
They surely thought it was a dream." 


On its arrival at Springfield, or as near Springfield as 
the river ran, the crew of the boat were given a reception 
and dance in the courthouse. The cream of the town's 
society attended to pay their respects to the newly arrived 
guests. The captain in charge of the boat — not Captain 
Bogue, but a vainly dressed fellow from the East — was 
accompanied by a woman, more gaudily attired than him- 
self, whom he introduced as his wife. Of course the most 
considerate attention was shown them both, until later in 
the evening, when it became apparent that the gallant of- 
ficer and his fair partner had imbibed too freely — for in 
those days we had plenty of good cheer — and were becom- 
ing unpleasantly demonstrative in their actions. This 
breach of good manners openly offended the high-toned 
nature of Springfield's fair ladies; but not more than 
the lamentable fact, which they learned on the following 
day, that the captain's partner was not his wife at all, but 
a woman of doubtful reputation whom he had brought 
with him from some place further east. 

[The effusion of another local rimester affords some 
idea of this social event: 

"There was a ball at night, I guess, 
For the ladies' sakes it couldn't be less — 
And twenty bachelors they say, 
Were strung in Hymen's noose that day. 
To such a height their courage went, 
So tired were they of Love's long lent ! 
Great guns were fired, and small ones too, 
Believe me, prairie bard, 'tis true ! . . . . 
Jabez's gude liquors went off slick, 
Some for the cash, but most on tick; 
The small beer poets made a show, 
And their small whistles loud did blow."] 

But to return to the Talisman. That now interesting 
vessel lay for a week longer at Bogue's mill, when the 
receding waters admonished her officers that unless they 
purposed spending the remainder of the year there they 
must head her down-stream. In this emergency recourse 
was had to my cousin Rowan Herndon, who had had no 


little experience as a boatman, and who recommended the 
employment of Lincoln as a skilful assistant. These two 
inland navigators undertook therefore the contract of pilot- 
ing the vessel — which had now become elephantine in pro- 
portions — through the uncertain channel of the Sangamon 
to the Illinois River. The average speed was four miles 
a day. At New Salem safe passage over the mill-dam 
was deemed impossible unless the same could be lowered or 
a portion removed. To this, Cameron and Rutledge, own- 
ers of the mill, entered their most strenuous protest. The 
boat's officers responded that under the Federal Constitu- 
tion and laws no one had the right to dam up or in any 
way obstruct a navigable stream, and they argued that, 
as they had just demonstrated that the Sangamon was 
navigable (?), they proposed to remove enough of the 
obstruction to let the boat through. Rowan Herndon, 
describing it to me in 1865, said: "When we struck the 
dam she hung. We then backed off and threw the anchor 
over. We tore away part of the dam and raising steam 
ran her over on the first trial." The entire proceeding 
stirred up no little feeling, in which the mill owners, boat 
officers, and passengers took part. The effect the return 
trip of the Talisman had on those who believed in the 
successful navigation of the Sangamon is shrewdly indi- 
cated by the pilot, who with laconic complacency adds : 
"As soon as she was over, the company that chartered her 
was done with her." Lincoln and Herndon, in charge of 
the vessel, piloted her through to Beardstown. There they 
were paid forty dollars each, according to contract, and 
bidding adieu to the Talisman's officers and crew, set out 
on foot for New Salem again. A few months later the 
Talisman caught fire at the wharf in St. Louis and went 
up in flames. The experiment of establishing a steamboat 
line to Springfield proved an unfortunate venture for its 
projector, Captain Bogue. Finding himself unable to 
meet his rapidly maturing obligations, incurred in aid of 
the enterprise, it is presumed that he left the country, 
for the Journal of that period is filled with notices of at- 
tachment proceedings brought by vigilant creditors who 
had levied on his goods. 

H A P T E R 


the downfall of Denton Offut's varied enterprises and his 
disappearance from New Salem, followed in rapid suc- 
cession, and before the spring of 1832 had merged into 
summer Lincoln found himself a piece of "floating drift- 
wood" again. Where he might have lodged had not the 
Black Hawk war intervened can only be a matter of con- 
jecture. A glance at this novel period in his life may not 
be out of keeping with the purpose of this book. The great 
Indian chief, Black Hawk, who on the 30th of June, 
1831, had entered into an agreement, having all the solem- 
nity of a treaty, with Governor Reynolds and General 
Gaines that none of his tribe should ever cross the Missis- 
sippi "to their usual place of residence, nor any part of 
their old hunting grounds east of the Mississippi, without 
permission of the President of the United States or the 
governor of the State of Illinois," had openly broken the 
compact. On the 6th of April, 1832, he recrossed the 
Mississippi and marched up Rock River Valley, accom- 
panied by about five hundred warriors on horseback; 
while his women and children went up the river in canoes. 1 
The great chief was now sixty-seven years old, and be- 
lieved that his plots were all ripe and his allies fast and 
true. Although warned by General Atkinson, then in com- 
mand of Fort Armstrong, against this aggression, and or- 

1 In violating the pledge of the previous year, Black Hawk 
and his braves were driven by fear of starvation. Their purpose 
was not to make war, but to join the Winnebagoes and raise 
enough corn to keep them through the next winter. Hostilities 
were precipitated by the white militiamen. 


dered to return, he proudly refused, claiming that he had 
"come to plant corn." On being informed of the move- 
ment of Black Hawk Governor Reynolds called for a thou- 
sand mounted volunteers to co-operate with the United 
States forces under command of General Atkinson, and 
drive the wily Indian back across the Mississippi. The 
response to the governor's call was prompt and energetic. 
In the company from Sangamon County Lincoln enlisted, 
and now for the first time entered on the vicissitudinous 
and dangerous life of a soldier. That he in fact regarded 
the campaign after the Indians as a sort of holiday affair 
and chicken-stealing expedition is clearly shown in a speech 
he afterwards made in Congress in exposure of the mili- 
tary pretensions of General Cass. However, in grim, sol- 
dierly severity he marched with the Sangamon County con- 
tingent to Rushville, in Schuyler County, where, much to 
his surprise, he was elected captain of the company over 
William Kirkpatrick. A recital of the campaign that fol- 
lowed, in the effort to drive the treacherous Indians back, 
or a description of the few engagements — none of which 
reached the dignity of a battle — which took place, have in_ 
no wise been overlooked by the historians of Illinois and 
of the Black Hawk war. With the exception of those 
things which relate to Lincoln alone I presume it would be 
needless to attempt to add anything to what has so thor- 
oughly and truthfully been told. 

While at the rendezvous at Rushville and on the march 
to the front Lincoln of course drilled his men, and gave 
them such meagre instruction in military tactics as he could 
impart. Some of the most grotesque things he ever related 
were descriptions of these drills. In marching one morn- 
ing at the head of the company, who were following in 
lines of twenty abreast, it became necessary to pass through 
a gate much narrower than the lines. The captain could 
not remember the proper command to turn the company 
endwise, and the situation was becoming decidedly em- 
barrassing, when one of those thoughts born of the depths 
of despair came to his rescue. Facing the lines he shouted : 
"Halt ! This company v/ill break ranks for two minutes 


and form again on the other side of the gate." The 
manoeuvre was successfully executed. 2 

On being elected captain, Lincoln replied in a brief re- 
sponse of modest and thankful acceptance. It was the first 
official trust ever turned over to his keeping, and he prized 
it and the distinction it gave him more than any which in 
after years fell to his lot. His company savored strongly 
of the Clary's Grove order, and though daring enough in 
the presence of danger, were difficult to bring down to the 
inflexibilities of military discipline. Each one seemed 
perfectly able and willing to care for himself, and while 
the captain's authority was respectfully observed, yet, as 
some have said, they were none the less a crowd of "gen- 
erous ruffians." I heard Mr. Lincoln say once on the sub- 
ject of his career as captain in this company and the 
discipline he exercised over his men, that to the first order 
given one of them he received the response, "Go to the 
devil, sir !" Notwithstanding the interchange of many such 
unsoldierlike civilities between the officer and his men, a 
strong bond of affection united them together, and if a 
contest had arisen over the conflict of orders between the 
United States authorities and those emanating from Cap- 
tain Lincoln or some other Illinois officer — as at one time 
was threatened — we need not be told to which side the San- 
gamon County company to a man would have gone. A 
general order forbidding the discharge of firearms within 
fifty yards of the camp was disobeyed by Captain Lincoln 
himself. For this violation of rule he was placed under 
arrest and deprived of his sword for a day. But this and 
other punishments in no way humiliated him in the esteem 
of his men ; if anything, they only clung the closer, and 
when Clary's Grove friendship asserted itself, it meant that 
firm and generous attachment found alone on the fron- 
tier — that bond, closer than the affinity of blood, which 
becomes stronger as danger approaches death. 

A soldier of the Sangamon County company broke into 
the officers' quarters one night, and with the aid of a 
tomahawk and four buckets, obtained by stealth a good 

2 Original footnote. 


supply of wines and liquors, which he generously distrib- 
uted to his appreciative comrades. The next morning at 
daybreak, when the army began to move, the Sangamon 
County company, much to their captain's astonishment, 
were unfit for the march. Their nocturnal expedition had 
been too much for them, and one by one they fell by the 
wayside, until but a mere handful remained to keep step 
with their gallant and astounded captain. Those who fell 
behind gradually overcame the effects of their carousal, 
but were hard pressed to overtake the command, and it was 
far into the night when the last one straggled into camp. 
The investigation which followed resulted only in the 
captain suffering the punishment for the more guilty men. 
For this infraction of military law he was put under 
arrest and made to carry a wooden sword for two days, 
"and this too," as one of his company has since assured 
me, "although he was entirely blameless in the matter." 

Among the few incidents of Lincoln's career in the 
Black Hawk war that have found a place in history was 
his manly interference to protect an old Indian who 
strayed, hungry and helpless, into camp one day, and whom 
the soldiers were conspiring to kill on the ground that he 
was a spy. A letter from General Cass, recommending 
him for his past kind and faithful services to the whites, 
which the trembling old savage drew from beneath the 
folds of his blanket failed in any degree to appease the 
wrath of the men who confronted him. They had come 
out to fight the treacherous Indians, and here was one 
who had the temerity even to steal into their camp. "Make 
an example of him," they exclaimed. "The letter is a 
forgery and he is a spy." They might have put their 
threats into execution had not the tall form of their captain, 
his face "swarthy with resolution and rage," interposed 
itself between them and their defenseless victim. Lin- 
coln's determined look and demand that "it must not be 
done" were enough. They sullenly desisted, and the In- 
dian, unmolested, continued on his way. 

Lincoln's famous wrestling match with the redoubtable 
Thompson, a soldier from Union County, who managed 


to throw him twice in succession, caused no diminution in 
the admiration and pride his men felt in their captain's 
muscle and prowess. They declared that unfair advantage 
had been taken of their champion, that Thompson had 
been guilty of foul tactics, and that, in the language of the 
sporting arena, it was a "dog-fall." Lincoln's magnani- 
mous action, however, in according his opponent credit 
for fair dealing in the face of the wide-spread and adverse 
criticism that prevailed, only strengthened him in the es- 
teem of all. 

William L. Wilson, a survivor of the war, in a letter 
under date of February 3, 1882, after detailing reminis- 
cences of Stillman's defeat, says : "I have during that time 
had much fun with the afterwards President of the United 
States, Abraham Lincoln. I remember one time of wres- 
tling with him, two best in three, and ditched him. He was 
not satisfied, and we tried it in a foot-race for a five- 
dollar bill. I won the money, and 'tis spent long ago. 
And many more reminiscences could I give, but am of the 
Quaker persuasion, and not much given to writing." 3 

At times the soldiers were hard pressed for food, but by 
a combination of ingenuity and labor in proportions known 
only to a volunteer soldier, they managed to avoid the 
unpleasant results of long-continued and unsatisfied hun- 
ger. "At an old Winnebago town called Turtle Village," 
narrates a member of the company, "after stretching our 
rations over nearly four days, one of our mess, an old 
acquaintance of Lincoln, G. B. Fanchier, shot a dove, and 
having a gill of flour left we made a gallon and a half of 
delicious soup in an old tin bucket that had been lost by 
Indians. This soup we divided among several messes that 
were hungrier than we were and our own mess, by pouring 
in each man's cup a portion of the esculent. Once more, 
at another time, in the extreme northern part of Illinois, 
we had been very hungry for two days, but suddenly came 
upon a new cabin at the edge of the prairie that the pioneer 
sovereign squatter family had vacated and 'skedaddled' 
from for fear of losing their scalps. There were plenty of 

3 Original footnote. 


chickens about the cabin, much hungrier than we ourselves 
were, if poverty is to test the matter, and the boys heard a 
voice saying 'Slay and eat.' They at once went to running, 
clubbing, and shooting them as long as they could be found. 
Whilst the killing was going on I climbed to the ridge-pole 
of the smoke-house to see distinctly what I saw obscurely 
from the ground and behold ! the cleanest, sweetest jolel 
ever saw — alone, half hid by boards and ridge-pole, stuck 
up no doubt for future use. By this time many of the 
chickens were on the fire, broiling, for want of grease or 
gravy to fry them in. Some practical fellow proposed to 
throw in with the fowls enough bacon to convert broiling 
into frying; the proposition was adopted, and they were 
soon fried. We began to eat the tough, dry chickens with 
alternating mouthfuls of the jole, when Lincoln came to the 
repast with the query, 'Eating chicken, boys?' 'Not much, 
sir/ I responded, for we had operated principally on the 
jole, it being sweeter and more palatable than the chickens. 
'It is much like eating saddle-bags,' he responded ; 'but I 
think the stomach can accomplish much today; but what 
have you got there with the skeletons, George?' 'We did 
have a sweet jole of a hog, sir,' I answered, 'but you are 
nearly too late for your share,' at the same time making 
room for him to approach the elm-bark dish. He ate the 
bacon a moment, then commenced dividing by mouthfuls 
to the boys from other messes, who came to 'see what Abe 
was at,' and saying many quaint and funny things suited to 
the time and the jole." The captain, it will be seen, by his 
"freedom without familiarity" and his "courtesy without 
condescension," was fast making inroads on the respect of 
his rude but appreciative men. He was doubtless looking a 
long way ahead, when both their friendship and respect 
would be of avail, for as the chronicler last quoted from 
continues : "He was acquainted with everybody, and he 
had determined, as he told me, to become a candidate for 
the next Legislature. The mess immediately pitched on 
him as our standard-bearer, and he accepted." 

The term for which the volunteers had enlisted had now 
expired, and the majority, tiring of the service, the novelty 


of which had worn off, and longing for the comforts and 
good cheer of their homes, refused either to re-enlist or 
render further service. They turned their faces homeward, 
each with his appetite for military glory well satiated. But 
the war was not over, and the mighty Black Hawk was 
still east of the Mississippi. A few remained and re- 
enlisted. Among them was Lincoln. This time, eschew- 
ing the responsibility of a captaincy, and to avoid the 
possible embarrassment of dragging about camp a wooden 
sword, he entered the company of Elijah lies as a dignified 
private. It has pleased some of Mr. Lincoln's biographers 
to attribute this re-enlistment to pure patriotism on his part 
and a conscientious desire to serve his country. From 
the standpoint of sentiment that is a comfortable view to 
take of it; but I have strong reason to believe that Mr. 
Lincoln never entertained such serious notions of the 
campaign. In fact, I may say that my information comes 
from the best authority to be had in the matter — the soldier 
himself. Mr. Lincoln had no home ; he had cut loose 
from his parents, from the Hankses and the Johnstons; 
he left behind him no anxious wife and children; and 
no chair before a warm fireplace remained vacant for him. 
"I was out of work," he said to me once, "and there being 
no danger of more fighting, I could do nothing better 
than enlist again." 

[lies' company was mustered in by a young lieutenant of 
the regular army, Robert Anderson. "It was made up of 
generals, colonels, captains, and distinguished men from 
the disbanded army," its captain later wrote. Attached 
to what was known as 'the spy battalion,' it was held in 
camp near the present city of Ottawa on the Illinois River 
while the other companies were sent out to scout the coun- 

While Lincoln and his fellow-volunteers were thus pro- 
saically serving out their second term, word came that all 
communication with Galena had been cut off. lies and his 
company were ordered there at once to reestablish contact 
and locate the Indians if possible. They proceeded to the 
present site of Dixon, where they found Colonel Zachary 
Taylor in command. Continuing to Galena, they found the 


inhabitants unharmed, though frightened. An uneventful 
return trip consumed the balance of the time for which 
they had enlisted. 

On June 16 Lincoln enlisted for the third time. His 
term of service was thirty days, and his rank a private in 
the company of Captain Jacob M. Early. No righting 
marked his third enlistment, although he saw the result of 
a sharp skirmish, and helped to bury five men whom the 
Indians had scalped. "I remember just how those men 
looked as we rode up the little hill where their camp was," 
he later said. "The red light of the morning sun was 
streaming upon them as they lay heads towards us on the 
ground. And every man had a round, red spot on top of 
his head, about as big as a dollar where the redskins had 
taken his scalp. It was frightful, but it was grotesque, and 
the red sunlight seemed to paint everything all over. I re- 
member that one man had on buckskin breeches." 

On July 16, 1832, Lincoln was mustered out at Black 
River, Wisconsin. His horse had been stolen, so he was 
compelled to return on foot and by canoe.] 

After his discharge from this last and brief period of 
service, along with the remainder of the Sangamon County 
soldiers, he departed from the scenes of recent hostilities 
for New Salem again. His soldier days had ended, and he 
returned now to enter upon a far different career. How- 
ever much in later years he may have pretended to ridicule 
the disasters of the Black Hawk war, or the part he took 
in it;' yet I believe he was rather proud of it after all. 
When Congress, along in the fifties, granted him a land 
warrant he was greatly pleased. He located it on some 
land in Iowa, and declared to me one day that he would die 
seized of that land, and although the tract never yielded 
him anything, he never, so far as my knowledge extends 
parted with its ownership. 4 

4 "Lincoln's land warrant under the Act of 1850, was No. 52076 
for forty acres, issued April 16, 1852. The land was located 
July 21, 1854, by Lincoln's attorney John P. Davies, at Dubuque, 
Iowa, on the N. W. Quarter of S. W. Quarter of Sec. 20, Town- 
ship 84 N. of Range 15 West. The patent to this tract, signed 
by Franklin Pierce, was issued to Lincoln, June 1, 1855. 

"The warrant under the Act of 1855 was No. 68645 for one 


The return of the Black Hawk warriors to New Salem 
occurred in the month of August, but a short time before 
the general election. A new Legislature was to be chosen, 
and as Lincoln had declared to his comrades in the army 
he would, and in obedience to the effusive declaration of 
principles which he had issued over his signature in March, 
before he went to the war, he presented himself to the 
people of his newly adopted county as a candidate for the 
•Legislature. It is not necessary to enter into an account 
of the political conditions in Illinois at that time, or the 
effect had on the same by those who had in charge the 
governmental machinery. Lincoln's course is all that in- 
terests us. Though he may not have distinctly avowed 
himself a Whig, yet, as one of his friends asserted, "he 
stood openly on Whig principles." He favored a national 
bank, a liberal system of internal improvements, and a high 
protective tariff. The handbill or circular alluded to an- 
nouncing his candidacy was a sort of literary fulmination, 
but on account of its length I deem it unnecessary to insert 
the whole of it here. I have been told that it was prepared 
by Lincoln, but purged of its most glaring grammatical 
errors by James McNamar, who afterwards became Lin- 
coln's rival in an important love affair. 5 

hundred and twenty acres issued April 22, 1856, and located by- 
Lincoln himself at Springfield, Dec. 27, 1859, on the E. Half of 
the N. E. Quarter and N. W. Quarter of N. E. Quarter of Sec. 
18, Township 84 N. of Range 39 W. The patents to these tracts, 
signed by James Buchanan, were issued to Lincoln Sept. 10, 1860, 
in the midst of his campaign for the Presidency, and they were 
sent to the Register of the Land Office at Springfield for de- 
livery to Lincoln Oct. 30, a week before his election. Records 
Gen. Land Office, Interior Dept., Washington. 

"Lincoln owned this Iowa land when he was assassinated; it 
descended to his heirs, and on March 22, 1892, was sold by 
Robert T. Lincoln, the only surviving heir, for $13,000, to Henry 
Edwards. Records Recorder's Office, Crawford County, Iowa." 
Beveridge, Abraham Lincoln, L, p. 553n. 

5 In a letter dated May 5, 1866, McNamar wrote Herndon: 
"I corrected at his request some of the grammatical errors in 
his first address to the voters of Sangamon County, his principal 
hobby being the navigation of the Sangamon river." 



The circular is dated March 9, 1832, and addressed to 
the "People of Sangamon County." In it he takes up all 
the leading questions of the day : railroads, river navigation, 
internal improvements, and usury. He dwells particularly 
on the matter of public education, alluding to it as the 
most important subject before the people. Realizing his 
own defects arising from a lack of school instruction he 
contends that every man and his children, however poor, 
should be permitted to obtain at least a moderate educa- 
tion, and thereby be enabled "to read the Scriptures and 
other works both of a moral and religious nature for them- 
selves." The closing paragraph was so constructed as to 
appeal to the chivalrous sentiments of Clary's Grove. "I 
was born and have ever remained," he declares, "in the 
most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular 
relatives or friends to recommend me. My case is thrown 
exclusively upon the independent voters of the county ; and 
if elected they will have conferred a favor upon me for 
which I shall be unremitting in my labors to compensate. 
But if," he dryly concludes, "the good people in their 
wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have 
been too familiar with disappointments to be very much 

The election being near at hand only a few days re- 
mained for his canvass. One who was with him at the 
time describing his appearance, says : "He wore a mixed 
jeans coat, clawhammer style, short in the sleeves and bob- 
tail — in fact it was so short in the tail he could not sit on 
it ; flax and towlinen pantaloons, and a straw hat. I think 
he wore a vest, but do not remember how it looked. He 
wore pot-metal boots." His maiden effort on the stump 
was a speech on the occasion of a public sale at Pappsville, 
a village eleven miles west of Springfield. After the sale 
was over and speechmaking had begun, a fight — a "general 
fight," as one of the bystanders relates — ensued, and Lin- 
coln, noticing one of his friends about to succumb to the 
energetic attack of an infuriated ruffian, interposed to pre- 
vent it. He did so most effectually. Hastily descending 
from the rude platform he edged his way through the 


crowd, and seizing the bully by the neck and seat of his 
trowsers, threw him by means of his strength and long 
arms, as one witness stoutly insists, "twelve feet away." 
Returning to the stand and throwing aside his hat he in- 
augurated his campaign with the following brief but juicy 
declaration : 

"Fellow Citizens, I presume you all know who I am. I 
am humble Abraham Lincoln. I have been solicited by 
many friends to become a candidate for the Legislature. 
My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman's dance. 
I am in favor of a national bank. I am in favor of the 
internal improvement system and a high protective tariff. 
These are my sentiments and political principles. If elected 
I shall be thankful ; if not it will be all the same." 

I obtained this speech from A. Y. Ellis, who in 1865 
wrote it out. Ellis was his friend and supporter, and took 
no little interest in his canvass. "I accompanied him," 
he relates, "on one of his electioneering trips to Island 
Grove, and he made a speech which pleased his party 
friends very well indeed, though some of the Jackson men 
tried to make sport of it. He told several anecdotes, and 
applied them, as I thought, very well. He also told the 
boys several stories which drew them after him. I re- 
member them, but modesty and my veneration for his 
memory forbid me to relate them." His story-telling 
propensity, and the striking fitness of his yarns — many 
of them being of the bar-room order — in illustrating public 
questions, as we shall see further along in these chapters, 
was really one of the secrets of his popularity and strength. 

[Stephen T. Logan first saw Lincoln when he came to 
Springfield to make a speech during this campaign. "He 
was a very tall and gawky and rough looking fellow then," 
he wrote, "his pantaloons didn't meet his shoes by six 
inches. But after he began speaking I became very much 
interested in him. He made a very sensible speech. It was 
the time when Benton was running his theory of a gold 
circulation. Lincoln was attacking Benton's theory and I 
thought did it very well. . . . The manner of Mr. Lin- 
coln's speech then was very much the same as his speeches 


in after life — that is the same peculiar characteristics were 
apparent then, though of course in after years he evinced 
both more knowledge and experience. But he had then the 
same novelty and the same peculiarity in presenting his 
ideas. He had the same individuality that he kept through 
all his life. ... In the election of 1832 he made a very 
considerable impression upon me as well as upon other 

The election, as he had predicted, resulted in his de- 
feat — the only defeat, as he himself afterward stated, that 
he ever suffered at the hands of the people. But there was 
little defeat in it after all. Out of the eight unsuccessful 
candidates he stood third from the head of the list, re- 
ceiving 657 votes. Five others received less. The most 
gratifying feature of it all was the hearty support of his 
neighbors at New Salem. Of the entire 208 votes in the 
precinct he received every one save three. 6 

It may not be amiss to explain the cause of this remark- 
able endorsement of Lincoln by the voters in New Salem. 
It arose chiefly from his advocacy of the improvement of 
the Sangamon River. He proposed the digging of a canal 
a few miles east of the point where the Sangamon enters 
the Illinois River, thereby giving the former two mouths. 
This, he explained to the farmers, would prevent the ac- 
cumulation of back-water and consequent overflow of 
their rich alluvial bottom lands in the spring. It would also 
avert the sickness and evil results of stagnant pools, which 
formed in low places after the high waters receded. His 
scheme — that is the name by which it would be known 
today — commended itself to the judgment of his neigh- 
bors, and the flattering vote he received shows how they 
endorsed it. 

The unsuccessful result of the election did not dampen 

6 The figures given in this paragraph are not strictly accurate. 
Lincoln received 657 votes, but his vote ranked fourth among 
that of nine unsuccessful candidates. As to his strength in New 
Salem, Lincoln himself said: "His own precinct, however, cast- 
ing its votes 277 for and 7 against him — and that, too, while 
he was avowed Clay man, and the precinct the autumn afterward 
giving a majority of 115 to General Jackson over Mr. Clay." 


his hopes nor sour his ambition. The extensive acquaint- 
ance, the practice in public speaking, the confidence gained 
with the people, together with what was augmented in 
himself, made a surplus of capital on which he was free to 
draw and of which he afterwards frequently availed him- 
self. The election being over, however, he found himself 
without money, though with a goodly supply of experience, 
drifting again. His political experience had forever 
weaned him from the dull routine of common labor. Labor 
afforded him no time for study and no incentive to prof- 
itable reflection. What he seemed to want was some 
lighter work, employment in a store or tavern where he 
could meet the village celebrities, exchange views with 
strangers, discuss politics, horse-races, cock-fights, and 
narrate to listening loafers his striking and significant 
stories. In the communties where he had lived, the village 
storekeeper held undisturbed sway. He took the only 
newspaper, owned the only collection of books and half the 
property in the village ; and in general was the social, and 
oftentimes the political head of the community. Naturally, 
therefore the prominence the store gave the merchant at- 
tracted Lincoln. But there seemed no favorable opening 
for him — clerks in New Salem were not in demand just 

My cousins, Rowan and James Herndon, were at that 
time operating a store, and tiring of their investment 
and the confinement it necessitated, James sold his interest 
to an idle, shiftless fellow named William Berry. Soon 
after Rowan disposed of his to Lincoln. That the latter, 
who was without means and in search of work, could suc- 
ceed to the ownership of even a half interest in a concern 
where but a few days before he would in all probability 
gladly have exchanged his services for his board, doubtless 
seems strange to the average young business man of to- 
day. I once asked Rowan Herndon what induced him to 
make such liberal terms in dealing with Lincoln, whom he 
had known for so short a time. 

"I believed he was thoroughly honest," was the reply, 
"and that impression was so strong in me I accepted his 


note in payment of the whole. He had no money, but I 
would have advanced him still more had he asked for it." 

Lincoln and Berry had been installed in business but a 
short time until one Reuben Radford, the proprietor of 
another New Salem grocery, who, happening to incur the 
displeasure of the Clary's Grove boys, decided suddenly 
one morning, in the commercial language of later days, 
to "retire from business. " A visit by night of the Clary's 
Grove contingent' always hastened any man's retirement 
from business. The windows were driven in, and pos- 
session taken of the stock without either ceremony or in- 
ventory. If, by break of day, the unfortunate proprietor 
found any portion of his establishment standing where he 
left it the night before, he might count himself lucky. In 
Radford's case, fearing "his bones might share the fate 
of his windows," he disposed of his stock and good-will 
to William Greene for a consideration of four hundred 
dollars. The latter employed Lincoln to make an inventory 
of the goods, and when completed, the new merchant, 
seeing in it something of a speculation, offered Greene an 
advance of two hundred and fifty dollars on his invest- 
ment. The offer was accepted, and the stock and fixtures 
passed into the ownership and control of the now en- 
terprising firm of Lincoln & Berry. They subsequently 
absorbed the remnant of a store belonging to one Rutledge, 
which last transaction cleared the field of all competitors 
and left them in possession of the only mercantile concern 
in New Salem. 7 

To effect these sales not a cent of money was required — 
the buyer giving the seller his note and the latter assigning 
it to someone else in another trade. Berry gave his note 
to Tames Herndon, Lincoln his to Rowan Herndon, while 
Lincoln & Berry as a firm, executed their obligation to 
Greene, Radford, and Rutledge in succession. Surely 
Wall Street at no time' in its history has furnished a brace 
of speculators who in so brief a period accomplished so 
much and with so little money. A few weeks only were 

7 Lincoln and Berry never acquired the store of Hill and 
McNamar at New Salem. 


sufficient to render apparent Lincoln's ill adaptation to the 
requirements of a successful business career. Once in- 
stalled behind the counter he gave himself up to reading 
and study, depending for the practical management of the 
business on his partner. A more unfortunate selection than 
Berry could not have been found ; for, while Lincoln at 
one end of the store was dispensing political information, 
Berry at the other was disposing of the firm's liquors, be- 
ing the best customer for that article of merchandise him- 
self. To put it more plainly, Lincoln's application to 
Shakespeare and Burns was only equalled by Berry's at- 
tention to spigot and barrel. That the latter in the end 
succeeded in squandering a good portion of their joint 
assets, besides wrecking his own health, is not to be won- 
dered at. By the spring of 1833 they, like their predeces- 
sors, were ready to retire. Two brothers named Trent 
coming along, they sold to them on the liberal terms then 
prevalent the business and the good-will ; but before the 
latter 's notes fell due, they in turn had failed and fled. 
The death of Berry following soon after, released him 
from the payment of any notes or debts, and thus Lincoln 
was left to meet the unhonored obligations of the ill-fated 
partnership, or avoid their payment by dividing the re- 
sponsibility and pleading the failure of the business. That 
he assumed all the liability and set resolutely to work to 
pay everything, was strictly in keeping with his fine sense 
of honor and justice. He was a long time meeting these 
claims, even as late as 1848 sending to me from Wash- 
ington portions of his salary as Congressman to be ap- 
plied on the unpaid remnant of the Berry & Lincoln in- 
debtedness — but in time he extinguished it all, even to the 
last penny. 

Conscious of his many shortcomings as a merchant, and 
undaunted by the unfortunate complications from which 
he had just been released, Lincoln returned to his books. 
Rowan Herndon, with whom he had been living, having 
removed to the country, he became for the first time a 
sojourner at the tavern, as it was then called — a public- 
house kept by Rutledge, Onstatt, and Alley in succession. 


"It was a small log house," he explained to me in later 
years, "covered with clapboards, and contained four 
rooms." It was second only in importance to the store, 
for there he had the opportunity of meeting passing strang- 
ers — lawyers and others from the county seat, whom he 
frequently impressed with his knowledge as well as wit. 
He had, doubtless, long before determined to prepare 
himself for the law ; in fact, had begun to read Blackstone 
while in the store, and now went at it with renewed zeal. 
He borrowed law-books of his former comrade in the 
Black Hawk war, John T. Stuart, who was practicing 
law in Springfield, frequently walking there to return one 
and borrow another. His determination to master any 
subject he undertook and his application to study were of 
the most intense order. On the road to and from Spring- 
field he would read and recite from the book he carried 
open in his hand, and claimed to have mastered forty 
pages of Blackstone during the first day after his return 
from Stuart's office. At New Salem he frequently sat 
barefooted under the shade of a tree near the store, poring 
over a volume of Chitty or Blackstone, sometimes lying 
on his back, putting his feet up the tree, which provokes 
one of his biographers to denote the latter posture as one 
which might have been "unfavorable to mental application, 
in the case of a man with shorter extremities." 

[Lincoln himself ascribed his decision to study law to 
Stuart's influence. Writing of his defeat in 1832 he said, 
"He studied what he should do — thought of learning the 
blacksmith trade — thought of trying to study law — rather 
thought he could not succeed at that without a better 
education." Makeshifts provided the means of livelihood 
until 1834, when Lincoln was elected to the legislature. 
"Major John T. Stuart, then in full practice of the law, 
was also elected. During the canvass, in a private con- 
versation he encouraged Abraham to study law. After 
the election he borrowed books of Stuart, took them home 
with him, and went at it in good earnest. He studied 
with nobody. He still mixed in the surveying to pay 
board and clothing bills. When the legislature met, the 


law-hooks were dropped, but were taken up again at the end 
of the session."] 
f""" That Lincoln's attempt to make a lawyer of himself 
under such adverse and unpromising circumstances excited 
comment is not to be wondered at. Russell Godby, an old 
man who still survives, told me in 1865, that he had often 
employed Lincoln to do farm work for him, and was sur- 
prised to find him one day sitting barefoot on the sum- 
mit of a woodpile and attentively reading a book. "This 
being an unusual thing for farm hands in that early day 
to do, I asked him," relates Godby, "what he was reading. 
T'm not reading,' he answered. T'm studying.' 'Study- 
ing what?' I enquired. 'Law, sir,' was the emphatic re- 
sponse. It was really too much for me, as I looked at 
him sitting there proud as Cicero. 'Great God Almighty!' 
I exclaimed, and passed on." 

But Lincoln kept on at his studies. Wherever he was 
and whenever he could do so the book was brought into 
use. He carried it with him in his rambles through the 
woods and his walks to the river. When night came he 
read it by the aid of any friendly light he could find. 
Frequently he went down to the cooper's shop and kindled 
a fire out of the waste material lying about, and by the 
light afforded read until far into the night. 

One of his companions at this time relates that, "while 
clerking in the store or serving as postmaster he would 
apply himself as opportunity offered to his studies, if it 
was but five minutes time — would open his book which 
he always kept at hand, study it, reciting to himself; then 
entertain the company present or wait on a customer with- 
out apparent annoyance from the interruption. Have fre- 
quently seen him reading while walking along the streets. 
Occasionally he would become absorbed with his book; 
would stop and stand for a few moments, then walk on, 
or pass from one house to another or from one crowd or 
squad of men to another. He was apparently seeking 
amusement, and with his thoughtful face and ill-fitting 
clothes was the last man one would have singled out for 
a student. If the company he was in was unappreciative, 


or their conversation at all irksome, he would open his 
book and commune with it for a time, until a happy 
thought suggested itself and then the book would again 
return to its wonted resting-place under his arm. He 
never appeared to be a hard student, as he seemed to mas- 
ter his studies with little effort, until he commenced the 
study of the law. In that he became wholly engrossed, 
and began for the first time to avoid the society of men, 
in order that he might have more time for study. He was 
not what is usually termed a quick-minded man, although 
he would usually arrive at his conclusions very readily. 
He seemed invariably to reflect and deliberate, and never 
acted from impulse so far as to force a wrong conclusion 
on a subject of any moment." 

It was not long until he was able to draw up deeds, con- 
tracts, mortgages, and other legal papers for his neigh- 
bors. He figured conspicuously as a pettifogger before 
the justice of the peace, but regarding it merely as a kind 
of preliminary practice, seldom made any charge for his 
services. Meanwhile he was reading not only law books 
but natural philosophy and other scientific subjects. "He 
was a careful and patient reader of newspapers, the San- 
gamon Journal — published at Springfield — Louisville Jour- 
nal, St. Louis Republican, and Cincinnati Gazette being 
usually within his reach. He paid a less degree of atten- 
tion to historical works, although he read Rollin and Gib- 
bon while in business with Berry. He had a more pro- 
nounced fondness for fictitious literature, and read with 
evident relish Mrs. Lee Hentz's novels, which were very 
popular books in that day, and which were kindly loaned 
by his friend A. Y. Ellis. The latter was a prosperous 
and shrewd young merchant who had come up from 
Springfield and taken quite a fancy to Lincoln. The two 
slept together and Lincoln frequently assisted him in the 
store. He says that Lincoln was fond of short, spicy 
stories one and two columns long, and cites as specimens, 
"Cousin Sally Dillard," "Becky William's Courtship," 
"The Down-Easter and the Bull," and others, the very 
titles suggesting the character of the productions. He re- 


membered everything he read, and could afterwards with- 
out apparent difficulty relate it. In fact, Mr. Lincoln's 
fame as a story-teller spread far and wide. Men quoted 
his sayings, repeated his jokes, and in remote places he was 
known as a story-teller before he was heard of either as 
lawyer or politician. 

It has been denied as often as charged that Lincoln 
narrated vulgar stories ; but the truth is he loved a story 
however extravagant or vulgar, if it had a good point. If 
it was merely a ribald recital and had no sting in the end, 
that is, if it exposed no weakness or pointed no moral, 
he had no use for it either in conversation or public speech ; 
but if it had the neccessary ingredients of mirth and moral 
no one could use it with more telling effect. As a mimic 
he was unequalled, and with his characteristic gestures, 
he built up a reputation for story-telling — although fully 
as many of his narratives were borrowed as original — 
which followed him through life. One who listened to his 
early stories in New Salem says: "His laugh was strik- 
ing. Such awkward gestures belonged to no other man. 
They attracted universal attention, from the old sedate 
down to the schoolboy. Then in a few moments he was 
as calm and thoughtful as a judge on the bench, and as 
ready to give advice on the most important matters ; fun 
and gravity grew on him alike." 

Lincoln's lack of musical adaptation has deprived us of 
many a song. For a ballad or doggerel he sometimes had 
quite a liking. He could memorize or recite the lines but 
some one else had to do the singing. Listen to one in 
which he shows "How St. Patrick Came to be Born on the 
17th of March." Who composed it or where Lincoln ob- 
tained it I have never been able to learn. Ellis says he 
often inflicted it on the crowds who collected in his store 
of winter evenings. Here it is : 

"The first factional fight in old Ireland, they say, 
Was all on account of Saint Patrick's birthday, 
It was somewhere about midnight without any doubt, 
And certain it is, it made a great rout. 


On the eighth day of March, as some people say, 
St. Patrick at midnight he first saw the day ; 
While others assert 'twas the ninth he was born — 
'Twas all a mistake — between midnight and morn. 

Some blamed the baby, some blamed the clock; 
Some blamed the doctor, some the crowing cock. 
With all these close questions sure no one could know, 
Whether the babe was too fast or the clock was too slow. 

Some fought for the eighth, for the ninth some would die ; 
He who wouldn't see right would have a black eye. 
At length these two factions so positive grew, 
They each had a birthday, and Pat he had two. 

Till Father Mulcahay who showed them their sins, 
He said none could have two birthdays but as twins. 
'Now Boys, don't be fighting for the eight or the nine 
Don't quarrel so always, now why not combine.' 

Combine eight with nine. It is the mark ; 

Let that be the birthday. Amen ! said the clerk. 

So all got blind drunk, which completed their bliss, 

And they've kept up the practice from that day to this." 

As a salesman, Lincoln was lamentably deficient. He 
was too prone to lead off into a discussion of politics or 
morality, leaving someone else to finish the trade which he 
had undertaken. One of his employers says : "He always 
disliked to wait on the ladies, preferring, he said, to wait 
on the men and boys. I also remember he used to sleep 
on the store counter when they had too much company at 
the tavern. He wore flax and towlinen pantaloons — I 
thought about five inches too short in the legs — and fre- 
quently had but one suspender, no vest or coat. He wore 
a calico shirt, such as he had in the Black Hawk war; 
coarse brogans, tan color ; blue yarn socks and straw hat, 
old style, and without a band." His friend Ellis attributed 
his shyness in the presence of ladies to the consciousness 
of his awkward appearance and the unpretentious condi- 
tion of his wearing apparel. It was more than likely due 
to pure bashfulness. "On one occasion," continues Ellis, 


"while we boarded at the tavern, there came a family con- 
sisting of an old lady, her son, and three stylish daugh- 
ters, from the State of Virginia, who stopped there for 
two or three weeks, and during their stay I do not re- 
member of Mr. Lincoln's ever appearing at the same 
table with them." 

As a society man, Lincoln was singularly deficient while 
he lived in New Salem, and even during the remainder of 
his life. He never indulged in gossip about the ladies, 
nor aided in the circulation of village scandal. For wo- 
men he had a high regard, and I can testify that during 
my long acquaintaince with him his conversation was free 
from injurious comment in individual cases — freer from 
unpleasant allusions than that of most men. At one time 
Major Hill charged him with making defamatory remarks 
regarding his wife. Hill was insulting in his language to 
Lincoln who never lost his temper. When he saw a chance 
to edge a word in, Lincoln denied emphatically using the 
language or anything like that attributed to him. He en- 
tertained, he insisted, a high regard for Mrs. Hill, and 
the only thing he knew to her discredit was the fact that 
she was Major Hill's wife. 

At this time in its brief history New Salem was what 
in the parlance of large cities would be called a fast place ; 
and it was difficult for a young man of ordinary moral 
courage to resist the temptations that beset him on every 
hand. It remains a matter of surprise that Lincoln was 
able to retain his popularity with the hosts of young men 
of his own age, and still not join them in their drinking 
bouts and carousals. "I am certain," contends one of 
his companions (A. Y. Ellis), "that he never drank any in- 
toxicating liquors — he did not even in those days smoke or 
chew tobacco." In sports requiring either muscle or skill 
he took no little interest. He indulged in all the games of 
the day, even to a horse-race or cock-fight. At one eventful 
chicken fight, where a fee of twenty-five cents for the 
entrance of each fowl was assessed, one Bap. McNabb 
brought a little red rooster, whose fighting qualities had 
been well advertised for days in advance by his owner. 


Much interest was naturally taken in the contest. As the 
outcome of these contests was generally a quarrel, in which 
each man, charging foul play, seized his victim, they chose 
Lincoln umpire, relying not only on his fairness but his 
ability to enforce his decisions. In relating what followed 
I cannot improve on the description furnished me in Feb- 
ruary, 1865, by Ellis, who was present. 

"They formed a ring, and the time having arrived, 
Lincoln, with one hand on each hip and in a squatting 
position, cried, 'Ready.' Into the ring they toss their 
fowls, Bap.'s red rooster along with the rest. But no 
sooner had the little beauty discovered what was to be 
done than he dropped his tail and ran. The crowd cheered, 
while Bap. in disappointment picked him up and started 
away, losing his quarter and carrying home his dishonored 
fowl. Once arrived at the latter place he threw his pet 
down with a feeling of indignation and chagrin. The 
little fellow, out of sight of all rivals, mounted a wood 
pile and proudly flirting out his feathers, crowed with all 
his might. Bap. looked on in disgust. 'Yes, you little 
cuss/ he exclaimed, irreverently, 'you're great on dress 
parade, but not worth a d — n in a fight'." It is said — 
how truthfully I do not know — that at some period during 
the late war Mr. Lincoln in conversation with a friend 
likened McClellan to Bap. McNabb's rooster. So much 
for New Salem sports. 

While wooing that jealous-eyed mistress, the law, Lin- 
coln was earning no money. As another has said, "he had 
a running board bill to pay, and nothing to pay it with." 
By dint of sundry jobs here and there, helping Ellis in his 
store today, splitting rails for James Short tomorrow, he 
managed to keep his head above the waves. His friends 
were firm — no young man ever had truer or better ones — 
but he was of too independent a turn to appeal to them 
or complain of his condition. He never at any time aban- 
doned the idea of becoming a lawyer. That was always a 
spirit which beckoned him on in the darkest hour of his 
adversity. Someone, probably a Democrat who voted for 
him in the preceding fall, recommended him to John Cal- 



houn, then surveyor of the county, as suitable material 
for an assistant. This office, in view of the prevailing 
speculation in lands and town lots, was the most important 
and possibly the most profitable in the county. Calhoun, 
the incumbent, was a Yankee and a typical gentleman. He 
was brave, intellectual, self-possessed, and cultivated. He 
had been educated for the law, but never practiced much 
after coming to Illinois — taught school in preference. As 
an instructor he was the popular one of his day and age. 
I attended the school he taught when I was a boy, in 
Springfield, and was in later years clerk of the city under 
his administration as Mayor. Lincoln, I know, respected 
and admired him. After Lincoln's removal to Spring- 
field they frequently held joint debates on political ques- 
tions. At one time I remember they discussed the tariff 
question in the court house, using up the better part of 
two evenings in the contest. Calhoun was polite, affable, 
and an honest debater, never dodging any question. This 
made him a formidable antagonist in argumentative con- 
troversy. I have heard Lincoln say that Calhoun gave 
him more trouble in his debates than Douglas ever did, 
because he was more captivating in his manner and a 
more learned man than Douglas. 

But to resume. The recommendation of Lincoln's 
friends was sufficient to induce Calhoun to appoint him one 
of his deputies. At the time he received notice of his 
selection by Calhoun, Lincoln was out in the woods near 
New Salem splitting rails. A friend named Pollard Sim- 
mons, who still survives and has related the incident to 
me, walked out to the point where he was working with 
the cheering news. Lincoln, being a Whig and knowing 
Calhoun's pronounced Democratic tendencies, inquired if 
he had to sacrifice any principle in accepting the position. 
"If I can be perfectly free in my political action I will take 
the office," he remarked; "but if my sentiments or even 
expression of them is to be abridged in any way I would 
not have it or any other office." A young man hampered 
by poverty as Lincoln was at this time, who had the cour- 
age to deal with public office as he did, was certainly made 


of unalloyed material. No wonder in after years when he 
was defeated by Douglas he could inspire his friends by 
the admonition not to "give up after one nor one hun- 
dred defeats." 

After taking service with Calhoun, Lincoln found he 
had but little if any practical knowledge of surveying — ; 
all that had to be learned. Calhoun furnished him with 
books, directing him to study them till he felt competent 
to begin work. He again invoked the assistance of Mentor 
Graham, the schoolmaster, who aided him in his efforts at 
calculating the results of surveys and measurements. 
Lincoln was not a mathematician by nature, and hence, 
with him, learning meant labor. Graham's daughter is 
authority for the statement that her father and Lincoln 
frequently sat up till midnight engrossed in calculations, 
and only ceased when her mother drove them out after a 
fresh supply of wood for the fire. Meanwhile Lincoln was 
keeping up his law studies. "He studied to see the subject- 
matter clearly," says Graham, "and to express it truly and 
strongly. I have known him to study for hours the best 
way of three to express an idea." He was so studious and 
absorbed in his application at one time, that his friends, 
according to a statement made by one of them (Henry 
McHenry), "noticed that he was so emaciated we feared 
he might bring on mental derangement." It was not long, 
however, until he had mastered surveying as a study, and 
then he was sent out to work by his superior — Calhoun. 
It has never been* denied that his surveys were exact and 
just, and he was so manifestly fair that he was often 
chosen to settle disputed questions of corners and meas- 
urements. It is worthy of note here that, with all his 
knowledge of lands and their value and the opportunities 
that lay open to him for profitable and safe investments, 
he never made use of the information thus obtained from 
official sources, nor made a single speculation on his own 
account. 8 The high value he placed on public office was 

8 In 1836 Lincoln had acquired three pieces of property : a 47 
acre tract on the north bank of the Sangamon River in what 
was then the northern part of Sangamon County, and two Spring- 


' more fully emphasized when as President, in answer to a 
delegation of gentlemen who called to press the claims of 
one of his warm personal friends for an important office, 
he declined on the ground that "he did not regard it as just 

i to the public to pay the debts of personal friendship with 

loffices that belonged to the people." 

As surveyor under Calhoun he was sent for at one time 
to decide or locate a disputed corner for some persons 
in the northern part of the county. Among others inter- 
ested was his friend and admirer Henry McHenry. "After 
a good deal of disputing we agreed," says the latter, "to 
send for Lincoln and to abide by his decision. He came 
with compass, flag-staff, and chain. He stopped with me 
three or four days and surveyed the whole section. When 
in the neighborhood of the disputed corner by actual sur- 
vey he called for his staff and driving it in the ground at 
a certain spot said, 'Gentlemen, here is the corner.' We 
dug down into the ground at the point indicated and, lo ! 
there we found about six or eight inches of the original 
stake sharpened at the end, and beneath which was the 
usual piece of charcoal placed there by Rector the surveyor 
who laid the ground off for the government many years 
before." So fairly and well had the young surveyor done 
his duty that all parties went away completely satisfied. As 
late as 1865 the corner was preserved by a mark and 
pointed out to strangers as an evidence of the young 
surveyor's skill. Russell Godby, mentioned in the earlier 
pages of this chapter, presented to me a certificate of sur- 
vey given to him by Lincoln. It was written January 14, 
1834, and is signed "J. Calhoun, S. S. C, by A. Lincoln." 
"The survey was made by Lincoln," says Godby, "and I 
gave him as pay for his work two buckskins, which Hannah 

field town lots. In the spring of 1837 he sold one of the town 
lots for $75.00— he had paid $50.00 for both of them — and it 
is likely that he sold the second at about the same time, though 
the sale was not recorded. On May 9, 1837, he gave a quit-claim 
deed to the 47 acre tract for a consideration of $30.00. For a 
complete summary of Lincoln's land holdings and investments 
see Bulletins 16 and 17, The Abraham Lincoln Association. 


Armstrong 'foxed' on his pants so that the briers would 
not wear them out." 

Honors were now crowding thick and fast upon him. 
On May 7, 1833, he was commissioned postmaster at New 
Salem, the first orifice he ever held under the Federal 
Government. The salary was proportionate to the amount 
of business done. Whether Lincoln solicited the appoint- 
ment himself, or whether it was given him without the 
asking, I do not know; but certain it is his "administra- 
tion" gave general satisfaction. The mail arrived once a 
week, and we can imagine the extent of time and labor 
required to distribute it, when it is known that "he carried 
the office around in his hat." Mr. Lincoln used to tell me 
that when he had a call to go to the country to survey 
a piece of land, he placed inside his hat all the letters be- 
longing to people in the neighborhood and distributed them 
along the way. He made head-quarters in Samuel Hill's 
store, and there the office may be said to have been located, 
as Hill himself had been postmaster before Lincoln. Be- 
tween the revenue derived from the post-office and his 
income from land surveys Lincoln was, in the expressive 
language of the day, "getting along well enough." Sud- 
denly, however, smooth sailing ceased and all his prospects 
of easy times ahead were again brought to naught. One 
Van Bergen brought suit against him and obtained judg- 
ment on one of the notes given in payment of the store 
debt — a relic of the unfortunate partnership with Berry. 
His personal effects were levied on and sold, his horse and 
surveying instruments going with the rest. But again a 
friend, one James Short, whose favor he had gained, inter- 
posed ; bought in the property and restored it to the hope- 
less young surveyor. It will be seen now what kind of 
friends Lincoln was gaining. The bonds he was thus 
making were destined to stand the severest of tests. His 
case never became so desperate but a friend came out of 
the darkness to relieve him. 

There was always something about Lincoln in his earlier 
days to encourage his friends. He was not only grateful for 


whatever aid was given him, but he always longed to help 
someone else. He had an unfailing disposition to succor 
the weak and the unfortunate, and always, in his sympathy, 
struggling with the under dog in the fight. He was once 
overtaken when about fourteen miles from Springfield by 
one Chandler, whom he knew slightly, and who, having 
already driven twenty miles, was hastening to reach the 
land orifice before a certain other man who had gone by a 
different road. Chandler explained to Lincoln that he waf 
poor and wanted to enter a small tract of land which ad- 
joined his, that another man of considerable wealth had 
also determined to have it, and had mounted his horse and 
started for Springfield. "Meanwhile, my neighbors," con- 
tinued Chandler, "collected and advanced me the necessary 
one hundred dollars, and now, if I can reach the land 
office first, I can secure the land." Lincoln noticed that 
Chandler's horse was too much fatigued to stand fourteen 
miles more of a forced march, and he therefore dismounted 
from his own and turned him over to Chandler, saying, 
"Here's my horse — he is fresh and full of grit ; there's no 
time to be lost; mount him and put through. When you 
reach Springfield put him up at Herndon's tavern and 
I'll call and get him." Thus encouraged Chandler moved 
on, leaving Lincoln to follow on the jaded animal. He 
reached Springfield over an hour in advance of his rival 
and thus secured the coveted tract of land. By nightfall 
Lincoln rode leisurely into town and was met by the now 
radiant Chandler, jubilant over his success. Between the 
two a friendship sprang up which all the political discords 
of twenty-five years never shattered nor strained. 

About this time Lincoln began to extend somewhat his 
system — if he really ever had a system in anything — of 
reading. He now began to read the writings of Paine, 
Volney, and Voltaire. A good deal of religious skepticism 
existed at New Salem, and there were frequent discussions 
at the store and tavern, in which Lincoln took part. What 
views he entertained on religious questions will be more 
fully detailed in another place. 

No little of Lincoln's influence with the men of New 


Salem can be attributed to his extraordinary feats of 
strength. By an arrangement of ropes and straps, har- 
nessed about his hips, he was enabled one day at the mill 
to astonish a crowd of village celebrities by lifting a box 
of stones weighing near a thousand pounds. There is no 
fiction either, as suggested by some of his biographers, in 
the story that he lifted a barrel of whisky from the ground 
and drank from the bung; but in performing this latter 
almost incredible feat he did not stand erect and elevate 
the barrel, but squatted down and lifted it to his knees, 
rolling it over until his mouth came opposite the bung. 
His strength, kindness of manner, love of fairness and 
justice, his original and unique sayings, his power of 
mimicry, his perseverance — all made a combination rarely 
met with on the frontier. Nature had burnt him in her 
holy fire, and stamped him with the seal of her greatness. 
In the summer of 1834 Lincoln determined to make an- 
other race for the legislature; but this time he ran dis- 
tinctly as a Whig. He made, it is presumed, the usual 
number of speeches, but as the art of newspaper reporting 
had not reached the perfection it has since attained, we 
are not favored with even the substance of his efforts on 
the stump. I have Lincoln's word for it that it was more 
of a hand-shaking campaign than anything else. Rowan 
Herndon relates that he came to his house during harvest, 
when there were a large number of men at work in the 
field. He was introduced to them, but they did not hesitate 
to apprize him of their esteem for a man who could labor ; 
and their admiration for a candidate for office was gauged 
somewhat by the amount of work he could do. Learning 
these facts, Lincoln took hold of a cradle, and handling it 
with ease and remarkable speed, soon distanced those who 
undertook to follow him. The men were satisfied, and it 
is presumed he lost no votes in that crowd. One Dr. 
Barrett, seeing Lincoln, inquired of the latter's friends : 
"Can't the party raise any better material than that?" but 
after hearing his speech the doctor's opinion was con- 
siberably altered, for he declared that Lincoln filled him 
with amazement; "that he knew more than all of the other 


candidates put together." The election took place in Au- 
gust. Lincoln's friend, John T. Stuart, was also a candi- 
date on the legislative ticket. He encouraged Lincoln's 
canvass in every way, even at the risk of sacrificing his own 
chances. But both were elected. The four successful 
candidates were Dawson, who received 1390 votes, Lincoln 
1376, Carpenter 1170, and Stuart 1164. 

At last Lincoln had been elected to the legislature, and 
by a very flattering majority. In order, as he himself said, 
"to make a decent appearance in the legislature," he had to 
borrow money to buy suitable clothing and to maintain 
his new dignity. Coleman Smoot, one of his friends, ad- 
vanced him "two hundred dollars, which he returned, re- 
lates the generous Smoot, according to promise." Here 
we leave our rising young statesman, to take up a different 
but very interesting period of his history. 



river's bank with little Kate Roby, dangling his bare feet 
in the water, there has been no hint in these pages of 
tender relations with any one of the opposite sex. Now 
we approach in timely order the "grand passion" of his 
life — a romance of much reality, the memory of which 
threw a melancholy shade over the remainder of his days. 
For the first time our hero falls in love. The courtship 
with Anne Rutledge and her untimely death form the 
saddest page in Mr. Lincoln's history. I am aware that 
most of his biographers have taken issue with me on this 
phase of Mr. Lincoln's life. Arnold says : "The picture 
has been somewhat too highly colored, and the story made 
rather too tragic." Dr. Holland and others omit the sub- 
ject altogether, while the most recent biography — the ad- 
mirable history by my friends Nicolay and Hay — devotes 
but five lines to it. I knew Miss Rutledge myself, as well 
as her father and other members of the family, and have 
been personally acquainted with every one of the score 
or more of witnesses whom I at one time or another inter- 
viewed on this delicate subject. From my own knowledge 
and the information thus obtained, I therefore repeat, that 
the memory of Anne Rutledge was the saddest chapter in 
Mr. Lincoln's life. 2 

1 See Editor's Preface, pp. xl-xliii, for a discussion of the sub- 
ject of this chapter. 

2 The original edition contains the following footnote: "In 
a letter dated Dec. 4, 1866, one of Miss Rutledge's brothers 
writes : 'When he first came to New Salem and up to the day 
of Anne's death Mr. Lincoln was all life and animation. He 
seemed to see the bright side of every picture'." 



James Rutledge, the father of this interesting girl, was 
one of the founders of New Salem, having come there 
from Kentucky in 1829. He was born in South Carolina 
and belonged to the noted Rutledge family of that state. 
I knew him as early as 1833, and have often shared the 
hospitality of his home. My father was a politician and an 
extensive stock dealer in that early day, and he and Mr. 
Rutledge were great friends. The latter was a man of no 
little force of character; those who knew him best loved 
him the most. Like other Southern people he was warm, 
— almost to impulsiveness, — social, and generous. His 
hospitality, an inherited quality that flashed with him be- 
fore he was born, developed by contact with the brave and 
broad-minded people whom he met in Illinois. Besides his 
business interests in the store and mill at New Salem, he 
kept the tavern where Lincoln came to board in 1833. His 
family, besides himself and wife, consisted of nine chil- 
dren, three of whom were born in Kentucky, the remaining 
six in Illinois. Anne, the subject of this chapter, was the 
third child. She was a beautiful girl, and by her winning 
ways attached people to her so firmly that she soon became 
the most popular young lady in the village. She was quick 
of apprehension, industrious, and an excellent housekeeper. 
She had a moderate education, but was not cultured except 
by contrast with those around her. One of her strong 
points was her womanly skill. She was dexterous in the 
use of the needle — an accomplishment of far more value in 
that day than all the acquirements of art in china painting 
and hammered brass are in this — and her needle-work was 
the wonder of the day. At every "quilting" Anne was a 
necessary adjunct, and her nimble fingers drove the needle 
more swiftly than anyone's else. Lincoln used to escort her 
to and from these quilting-bees, and on one occasion even 
went into the house — where men were considered out of 
place — and sat by her side as she worked on the quilt. 

He whispered into her ear the old, old story. Her heart 
throbbed and her soul was thrilled with a joy as old as 
the world itself. Her fingers momentarily lost their skill. 
In her ecstacy she made such irregular and uneven stitches 


that the older and more sedate women noted it, and the 
owner of the quilt, until a few years ago still retaining 
it as a precious souvenir, pointed out the memorable stitches I 
to such persons as visited her. \ 

L. M. Greene, who remembered Anne well, says, "She 
was amiable and of exquisite beauty, and her intellect was 
quick, deep, and philosophic as well as brilliant. She had 
a heart as gentle and kind as an angel, and full of love and 
sympathy. Her sweet and angelic nature was noted by 
every one who met her. She was a woman worthy of 
Lincoln's love." This is a little overstated as to beauty — 
Greene writes as if he too had been in love with her — but 
is otherwise nearly correct. 

"Miss Rutledge," says a lady (Mrs. Hardin Bale) who 
knew her, "had auburn hair, blue eyes, fair complexion. 
She was pretty, slightly slender, but in everything a good 
hearted young woman. She was about five feet two inches 
high, and weighed in the neighborhood of a hundred and 
twenty pounds. She was beloved by all who knew her. 
/ She died as it were of grief. In speaking of her death 
and her grave Lincoln once said to me. 'My heart lies 
buried there/ " 

Before narrating the details of Lincoln's courtship with 
Miss Rutledge, it is proper to mention briefly a few facts 
that occurred before their attachment began. 

About the same time that Lincoln drifted into New 
Salem there came in from the Eastern States John McNeil, 
a young man of enterprise and great activity, seeking his 
fortune in the West. He went to work at once, and within 
a short time had accumulated by commendable effort a 
comfortable amount of property. Within three years he 
owned a farm, and a half interest with Samuel Hill in the 
leading store. He had good capacity for business, and was 
a valuable addition to that already pretentious village — 
New Salem. It was while living at James Cameron's 
house that this plucky and industrious young business man 
first saw Anne Rutledge. At that time she was attending 
the school of Mentor Graham, a pedagogue of local renown 
whose name is frequently met with in these pages, and who 


flourished in and around New Salem from 1829 to 1860. 
McNeil fell deeply in love with the school-girl — she was 
then only seventeen — and paid her the usual unremitting 
attentions young lovers of that age had done before him 
and are still doing today. His partner in the store, Sam- 
uel Hill, a young man of equal force of character, who 
afterwards amassed a comfortable fortune, and also wield- 
ed no little influence as a local politician, laid siege to 
the heart of this same attractive maiden, but he yielded up 
the contest early. Anne rejected him, and he dropped from 
the race. . McNeil had clear sailing from this time for- 
ward. He was acquiring property and money day by day. 
As one of the pioneers puts it, "Men were honest then, 
and paid their debts at least once a year. The merchant 
surrounded by a rich country suffered little from com- 
petition. As he placed his goods on the shelf he added an 
advance of from seventy-five to one hundred and fifty per 
cent over cost price, and thus managed to get along." 
After "managing" thus for several years, McNeil, having 
disposed of his interest in the store to Hill, determined to 
return to New York, his native State, for a visit. He had 
accumulated up to this time, as near as we can learn, ten or 
possibly twelve thousand dollars. Before leaving he made 
to Anne a singular revelation. He told her the name 
McNeil was an assumed one; that his real name was 

"I left behind me in New York," he said, "my parents 
and brothers and sisters. They are poor, and were in more 
or less need when I left them in 1829. I vowed that I 
would come West, make a fortune, and go back to help 
them. I am going to start now and intend, if I can, to 
bring them with me on my return to Illinois and place 
them on my farm." He expressed a sense of deep satis- 
faction in being able to clear up all mysteries which might 
have formed in the mind of her to whom he confided his 
love. He would keep nothing, he said, from her. They 
were engaged to be married, and she should know it all. 
The change of his name was occasioned by the fear that 
if the family in New York had known where he was they 


would have settled down on him, and before he could have 
accumulated any property would have sunk him beyond 
recovery. Now, however, he was in a condition to help 
them, and he felt overjoyed at the thought. As soon as 
the journey to New York could be made he would return. 
Once again in New Salem he and his fair one could con- 
summate the great event to which they looked forward 
with undisguised joy and unbounded hope. Thus he ex- 
plained to Anne the purpose of his journey — a story with 
some remarkable features, all of which she fully believed. 

"She would have believed it all the same if it had been 
ten times as incredible. A wise man would have re-- 
jected it with scorn, but the girl's instinct was a better 
guide, and McNamar proved to be all that he said he was, I 
although poor Anne never saw the proof which others got 
of it." 3 

At last McNamar, mounting an old horse that had par- 
ticipated in the Black Hawk war, began his journey. In 
passing through Ohio he became ill with a fever. For 
almost a month he was confined to his room, and a portion 
of the time was unconscious. As he approached a return 
to good health he grew nervous over the delay in his 
trip. He told no one around him his real name, destina- 
tion, or business. He knew how his failure to write to 
New Salem would be construed, and the resulting irrita- 
tion gave way to a feeling of desperation. In plainer lan- 
guage, he concluded it was "all up with him now." Mean- 
while a different view of the matter was taken by Miss 
Rutledge. Her friends encouraged the idea of cruel deser- 
tion. The change of McNeil to McNamar had wrought 
in their minds a change of sentiment. Some contended 
that he had undoubtedly committed a crime in his earlier 
days, and for years had rested secure from apprehension 
under the shadow of an assumed name ; while others with 
equal assurance whispered in the unfortunate girl's ear 
the old story of a rival in her affections. Anne's lady 
friends, strange to relate, did more to bring about a dis- 
cordant feeling than all others. Women are peculiar crea- 

3 Lamon, Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 161. 


tures. They love to nettle and mortify one another; and 
when one of their own sex has fallen, how little sympathy 
they seem to have ! But under all this fire, in the face of 
all these insidious criticisms, Anne remained firm. She 
had faith, and bided her time. 

McNamar, after much vexatious delay, finally reached 
his birthplace in New York, finding his father in the de- 
cline of years and health. He provided for his immediate 
needs, and by his assiduous attentions undertook to atone 
for the years of his neglect ; but all to no purpose. The old 
gentleman gradually faded from the world, and early one 
winter morning crossed the great river. McNamar was 
thus left to settle up the few unfinished details of his 
father's estate, and to provide for the pressing needs of 
the family. His detention necessitated a letter to Anne, 
explaining the nature and cause of the delay. Other let- 
ters followed ; but each succeeding one growing less ardent 
in tone, and more formal in phraseology than its predeces- 
sor, Anne began to lose faith. Had his love gradually 
died away like the morning wind? was a question she 
often asked herself. She had stood firm under fire before, 
but now her heart grew sick with hope deferred. At last 
the correspondence ceased altogether. 

At this point we are favored with the introduction of 
the ungainly Lincoln, as a suitor for the hand of Miss 
Rutledge. Lincoln had learned of McNamar's strange 
conduct, and conjecturing that all the silken ties that bound 
the two together had been sundered, ventured to step in 
himself. He had seen the young lady when a mere girl 
at Mentor Graham's school, and he, no doubt, then had 
formed a high opinion of her qualities. But he was too 
bashful, as his friend Ellis declares, to tell her about it. 
No doubt, when he began to pay her attentions she was 
the most attractive young lady whom up to that time he 
had ever met. She was not only modest and winning in 
her ways, and full of good, womanly common-sense, but 
withal refined, in contrast with the uncultured people who 
surrounded both herself and Lincoln. "She had a secret, 
too, and a sorrow, — the unexplained and painful absence 
of McNamar, — which, no doubt, made her all the more 


interesting to him whose spirit was often even more mel- 
ancholy than her own." 

In after years, McNamar himself, describing- her to 
me, said : "Miss Rutledge was a gentle, amiable maiden, 
without any of the airs of your city belles, but winsome 
and comely withal; a blonde in complexion, with golden 
hair, cherry-red lips, and a bonny blue eye. As to her 
literary attainments, she undoubtedly was as classic a 
scholar as Mr. Lincoln. She had at the time she met him, 
I believe, attended a literary institution at Jacksonville, in 
company with her brother." 

McNamar seems to have considered Lincoln's bashful- 
ness proof against the alluring charms of Miss Rutledge 
or anybody else, for he continues : 

"Mr. Lincoln was not to my knowledge paying particu- 
lar attention to any of the young ladies of my acquaintance 
when I left for my home in New York. There was no 
rivalry between us on that score; on the contrary, I had 
every reason to believe him my warm, personal friend. 
But by-and-by I was left so far behind in the race I did 
not deem my chances worthy of notice. From this time 
forward he made rapid strides to that imperishable fame 
which justly fills a world." 

Lincoln began to court Miss Rutledge in dead earnest. 
Like David Copperfield, he soon realized that he was in 
danger of becoming deeply in love, and as he approached 
the brink of the pit he trembled lest he should indeed fall 
in. As he pleaded and pressed his cause the Rutledges 
and all New Salem encouraged his suit. McNamar's un- 
explained absence and apparent neglect furnished outsiders 
with all the arguments needed to encourage Lincoln and 
convince Anne. Although the attachment was growing 
and daily becoming an intense and mutual passion, the 
young lady remained firm and almost inflexible. She was 
passing through another fire. A long struggle with her 
feelings followed ; but at length the inevitable moment 
came. She consented to have Lincoln, provided he gave 
her time to write to McNamar and obtain his release from 
her pledge. The slow-moving mails carried her tender 
letter to New York. Days and weeks — which to the ^r- 


dent Lincoln must have seemed painfully long — passed, 
but the answer never came. In a half-hearted way she 
turned to Lincoln, and her looks told him that he had 
won. She accepted his proposal. Now that they were 
engaged he told her what she already knew, that he was 
poverty itself. She must grant him time to gather up 
funds to live on until he had completed his law studies. 
After this trifling delay "nothing on God's footstool, " 
argued the emphatic lover, could keep them apart. To 
this the thoughtful Anne consented. To one of her 
brothers, she said : "As soon as his studies are completed 
we are to be married." But the ghost of another love 
would often rise unbidden before her. Within her 
bosom raged the conflict which finally undermined her 
health. Late in the summer she took to her bed. A fever 
was burning in her head. Day by day she sank, until 
all hope was banished. During the latter days of her 
sickness, her physician had forbidden visitors to enter 
her room, prescribing absolute quiet. But her brother 
relates that she kept inquiring for Lincoln so continu- 
ously, at times demanding to see him, that the family at 
last sent for him. On his arrival at her bedside the door 
was closed and he was left alone with her. What was 
said, what vows and revelations were made during this 
sad interview, were known only to him and the dying 
girl. A few days afterward she became unconscious and 
remained so until her death on the 25th day of August, 
1835. She was buried in what is known as the Concord 
grave-yard, about seven miles north-west of the town of 
Petersburg. 4 

4 In the original edition Herndon printed, as a footnote to 
this paragraph, the following extract from a letter written by- 
John M. Rutledge, November 25, 1866: "I have heard mother 
say that Anne would frequently sing for Lincoln's benefit. She 
had a clear, ringing voice. Early in her illness he called, and 
she sang a hymn for which he always expressed a great prefer- 
ence. It begins: 

'Vain man, thy fond pursuits forbear.' 
You will find it in one of the standard hymn-books. It was 
likewise the last thing she ever sung." 


The most astonishing and sad sequel to this courtship 
was the disastrous effect of Miss Rutledge's death on Mr. 
Lincoln's mind. It operated strangely on one of his calm 
and stoical make-up. As he returned from the visit to the 
bedside of Miss Rutledge, he stopped at the house of a 
friend, who relates that his face showed signs of no little 
mental agony. "He was very much distressed," is the 
language of this friend, "and I was not surprised when 
it was rumored subsequently that his reason was in dan- 
ger." One of Miss Rutledge's brothers says : "The effect 
upon Mr. Lincoln's mind was terrible. He became plunged 
in despair, and many of his friends feared that reason 
would desert her throne. His extraordinary emotions 
were regarded as strong evidence of the existence of the 
tenderest relations between himself and the deceased." 
The truth is Mr. Lincoln was strangely wrought up over 
the sad ending of the affair. He had fits of great mental 
depression, and wandered up and down the river and into 
the woods woefully abstracted — at times in the deepest 
distress. If, when we read what the many credible per- 
sons who knew him at the time tell us, we do not con- 
clude that he was deranged, we must admit that he walked 
on that sharp and narrow line which divides sanity from 
insanity. To one friend (William Greene) he complained 
that the thought "that the snows and rains fall upon her 
grave filled him with indescribable grief." He was watched 
with especial vigilance during damp, stormy days, under 
the belief that dark and gloomy weather might produce 
such a depression of spirits as to induce him to take his 
own life. His condition finally became so alarming, his 
friends consulted together and sent him to the house of a 
kind friend, Bowlin Greene, who lived in a secluded spot 
hidden by the hills, a mile south of town. Here he re- 
mained for some weeks under the care and ever watchful 
eye of this noble friend, who gradually brought him back 
to reason, or at least a realization of his true condition. 
In the years that followed Mr. Lincoln never forgot the 
kindness of Greene through those weeks of suffering and 
peril. In 1842, when the latter died, and Lincoln was 


selected by the Masonic lodge to deliver the funeral ora- 
tion, he broke down in the midst of his address. "His 
voice was choked with deep emotion ; he stood a few mo- 
ments while his lips quivered in the effort to form the 
words of fervent praise he sought to utter, and the tears 
ran down his yellow and shrivelled cheeks. Every heart 
was hushed at the spectacle. After repeated efforts he 
found it impossible to speak, and strode away, bitterly 
sobbing, to the widow's carriage and was driven from the 

It was shortly after this that Dr. Jason Duncan placed 
in Lincoln's hands a poem called "Immortality." The 
piece starts out with the line, "Oh ! why should the spirit 
of mortal be proud." Lincoln's love for this poem has 
certainly made it immortal. He committed these lines to 
memory, and any reference to or mention of Miss Rut- 
ledge would suggest them, as if "to celebrate a grief which 
lay with continual heaviness on his heart." There is no 
question that from this time forward Mr. Lincoln's spells 
of melancholy became more intense than ever. In fact 
a tinge of this desperate feeling of sadness followed him 
to Springfield. He himself was somewhat superstitious 
about it, and in 1840-41 wrote to Dr. Drake, a celebrated 
physician in Cincinnati, describing his mental condition 
in a long letter. Dr. Drake responded, saying substan- 
tially, "I cannot prescribe in your case without a personal 
interview." Joshua F. Speed, to whom Lincoln showed the 
letter addressed to Dr. Drake, writing to me from 
Louisville, November 30, 1866, says : "I think he (Lincoln) 
must have informed Dr. Drake of his early love for Miss 
Rutledge, as there was a part of the letter which he would 
not read." It is shown by the declaration of Mr. Lincoln 
himself made to a fellow member of the Legislature 
(Robert L. Wilson) within two years after Anne Rut- 
ledge's death that "although he seemed to others to enjoy 
life rapturously, yet when alone he was so overcome by 
mental depression he never dared to carry a pocket knife." 

It may not be amiss to suggest before I pass from men- 
tion of McNamar that, true to his promise, he drove into 


New Salem in the fall of 1835 with his mother and broth- 
ers and sisters. They had come through from New York 
in a wagon, with all their portable goods. Anne Rutledge 
had meanwhile died, and McNamar could only muse in 
silence over the fading visions of "what might have been." 
On his arrival he met Lincoln, who, with the memory of 
their mutual friend, now dead, constantly before him, 
"seemed desolate and sorely distressed." The little acre 
of ground in Concord cemetery contained the form of 
his first love, rudely torn from him, and the great world, 
throbbing with life but cold and heartless, lay spread be- 
fore him. 



the Legislature, which, following strictly the order of 
time, properly belongs here, I beg to digress long enough 
to narrate what I have gathered relating to another court- 
ship — an affair of the heart which culminated in a sequel 
as amusing as the one with Anne Rutledge was sad. I 
experienced much difficulty in obtaining the particulars 
of this courtship. After no little effort I finally located 
and corresponded with the lady participant herself, who 
in 1866 furnished me with Lincoln's letters and her own 
account of the affair, requesting the suppression of her 
name and residence. Since then, however, she has died, 
and her children have not only consented to a publication 
of the history, but have furnished me recently with more 
facts and an excellent portrait of their mother made 
shortly after her refusal of Lincoln's hand. 

Mary S. Owens — a native of Green County, Kentucky, 
born September 29, 1808 — first became acquainted with 
Lincoln while on a visit to a sister, the wife of Bennet 
Able, an early settler in the country about New Salem. 
Lincoln was a frequent visitor at the house of Able, and 
a warm friend of the family. During the visit of Miss 
Owens in 1833, though only remaining a month, she lin- 
gered long enough to make an impression on Lincoln; 
but returned to Kentucky and did not reappear in New 
Salem till 1836. Meanwhile Anne Rutledge had died, 
and Lincoln's eyes began to wander after the dark-haired 
visitor from Kentucky. Miss Owens differed from Miss 
Rutledge in early education and the advantages of wealth. 
She had received an excellent education, her father being 

meserve no. 24. Lincoln's home in Springfield 
where he lived until he became President. 
Lincoln is standing inside the fence with one 
of his sons. 


one of the wealthiest and most influential men of his time 
and locality. A portion of her schooling was obtained in 
a Catholic convent, though in religious faith she was a 
Baptist. According to a description furnished me by 
herself she "had fair skin, deep blue eyes, and dark curl- 
ing hair; height five feet, five inches; weight about a 
hundred and fifty pounds." She was good-looking in 
girlhood ; by many esteemed handsome, but became flesh- 
ier as she grew older. At the time of her second visit 
she reached New Salem on the day of the Presidential 
election, passing the polls where the men had congre- 
gated, on the way to her sister's house. One man (L. M. 
Greene) in the crowd who saw her then was impressed 
with her beauty. Years afterwards, in relating the inci- 
dent, he wrote me : 

"She was tall, portly, had large blue eyes and the 
finest trimmings I ever saw. She was jovial, social, loved 
wit and humor, had a liberal English education, and was 
considered wealthy. None of the poets or romance writ- 
ers have ever given us a picture of a heroine so beautiful 
as a good description of Miss Owens in 1836 would be." 

A lady friend, Mrs. Hardin Bale, says she was "hand- 
some, truly handsome, matronly-looking, over ordinary 
size in height and weight." 

Johnson G. Greene, who saw her a few years before her 
death describes her as "a nervous, muscular woman very 
intellectual, with a forehead massive and angular, square, 
prominent, and broad." 

At the time of her advent into the society of New Salem 
she was polished in her manners, pleasing in her address, 
and attractive in many ways. She had a little dash of co- 
quetry in her intercourse with that class of young men 
who arrogated to themselves claims of superiority, but she 
never yielded to this disposition to an extent that would 
willingly lend encouragement to an honest suitor sincerely 
desirous of securing her hand, when she felt she could not 
in the end yield to a proposal of marriage if he should 
make the offer. She was a good conversationalist and a 
splendid reader, very few persons being found to equal 


her in this accomplishment. She was light-hearted and 
cheery in her disposition, kind and considerate for those 
with whom she was thrown in contact. 

One of Miss Owens' descendants is authority for the 
statement that Lincoln had boasted that "if Mary Owens 
ever returned to Illinois a second time he would marry 
her;" that a report of this came to her ears, whereupon 
she left her Kentucky home with a pre-determination to 
show him if she met him that she was not to be caught 
simply by the asking. On this second visit Lincoln paid 
her more marked attention than before, and his affections 
became more and more enlisted in her behalf. During the 
earlier part of their acquaintance, following the natural 
bent of her temperament she was pleasing and entertain- 
ing to him. Later on he discovered himself seriously in- 
terested in the blue-eyed Kentuckian, whom he had really 
under-estimated in his preconceived opinions of her. In 
the meantime she too had become interested, having dis- 
covered the sterling qualities of the young man who was 
paying her such devoted attention ; yet while she admired 
she did not love him. He was ungainly and angular in 
his physical make-up, and to her seemed deficient in the 
nicer and more delicate attentions which she felt to be due 
from the man whom she had pictured as an ideal husband. 
He had given her to understand that she had greatly 
charmed him ; but he was not himself certain that he could 
make her the husband with whom he thought she would 
be most happy. Later on by word and letter he told her 
so. His honesty of purpose showed itself in all his ef- 
forts to win her hand. He told her of his poverty, and 
while advising her that life with him meant to her who 
had been reared in comfort and plenty, great privation 
and sacrifice, yet he wished to secure her as a wife. She, 
however, felt that she did not entertain for him the same 
feeling that he professed for her and that she ought to 
entertain before accepting him, and so declined his offer. 
Judging from his letters alone it has been supposed by 
some that she, remembering the rumor she had heard of 
his determination to marry her, and not being fully cer- 


tain of the sincerity of his purposes, may have purposely 
left him in the earlier stages of his courtship somewhat 
in uncertainty. Later on, however, when by his manner 
and repeated announcement to her that his hand and heart 
were at her disposal, he demonstrated the honesty and 
sincerity of his intentions, she declined his offer kindly 
but with no uncertain meaning. 

The first letter I received from Mrs. Vineyard — for she 
was married to Jesse Vineyard, March 27, 1841 — was 
written at Weston, Mo., May 1, 1866. Among other 
things she says : "After quite a struggle with my feelings 
I have at last decided to send you the letters in my pos- 
session written by Mr. Lincoln, believing as I do that you 
are a gentleman of honor and will faithfully abide by all 
you have said. My associations with your lamented friend 
were in Menard County whilst visiting a sister who then 
resided near Petersburg. I have learned that my maiden 
name is now in your possession ; and you have ere this, 
no doubt, been informed that I am a native Kentuckian." 

The letters written by Lincoln not revealing enough de- 
tails of the courtship, I prepared a list of questions for 
the lady to answer in order that the entire history of their 
relations might be clearly shown. I perhaps pressed her 
too closely in such a delicate matter, for she responded 
in a few days as follows : 

"Weston, Mo., May 22, 1866. 
"Mr. W. H. Herndon, 

"My Dear Sir: Really, you catechise me in true lawyer 
style; but I feel you will have the goodness to excuse me if 
I decline answering all your questions in detail, being well 
assured that few women would have ceded as much as I have 
under all the circumstances. 

"You say you have heard why our acquaintance terminated 
as it did. I too have heard the same bit of gossip ; but I never 
used the remark which Madame Rumor says I did to Mr. 
Lincoln. I think I did on one occasion say to my sister, who 
was very anxious for us to be married, that I thought Mr. 
Lincoln was deficient in those little links which make up the 
chain of woman's happiness — at least it was so in my case. 


Not that I believed it proceeded from a lack of goodness of 
heart; but his training had been different from mine; hence 
there was not that congeniality which would otherwise have 

"From his own showing you perceive that his heart and 
hand were at my disposal ; and I suppose that my feelings 
were not sufficiently enlisted to have the matter consummated. 
About the beginning of the year 1838 I left Illinois, at which 
time our acquaintance and correspondence ceased, without 
ever again being renewed. 

"My father, who resided in Green County, Kentucky, was a 
gentleman of considerable means; and I am persuaded that 
few persons placed a higher estimate on education than he 

"Respectfully yours, 

"Mary S. Vineyard." 

The reference to Lincoln's deficiency "in those little 
links which make up the chain of woman's happiness" is of 
no little significance. It proved that his training had indeed 
been different from hers. In a short time I again wrote 
Mrs. Vineyard to inquire as to the truth of a story current 
in New Salem, that one day as she and Mrs. Bowlin Greene 
were climbing up the hill to Abie's house they were joined 
by Lincoln; that Mrs. Greene was obliged to carry her 
child, a fat baby boy, to the summit ; that Lincoln strolled 
carelessly along, offering no assistance to the woman who 
bent under the load. Thereupon Miss Owens, censuring 
him for his neglect, reminded him that in her estimation 
he would not make a good husband. In due time came 
her answer : 

"Weston, Mo., July 22, 1866. 
"Mr. W. H. Herndon : 

"Dear Sir : I do not think you are pertinacious in asking 
the question relative to old Mrs. Bowlin Greene, because I 
wish to set you right on that question. Your information, no 
doubt, came through my cousin, Mr. Gaines Greene, who 
visited us last winter. Whilst here, he was laughing at me 
about Mr. Lincoln, and among other things spoke about the 
circumstance in connection with Mrs. Greene and child. My 
impression is now that I tacitly admitted it, for it was a season 


of trouble with me, and I gave but little heed to the matter. 
We never had any hard feelings towards each other that I 
know of. On no occasion did I say to Mr. Lincoln that I 
did not believe he would make a kind husband, because he did 
not tender his services to Mrs. Greene in helping o£ her carry 
her babe. As I said to you in a former letter, I thought him 
lacking in smaller attentions. One circumstance presents it- 
self just now to my mind's eye. There was a company of us 
going to Uncle Billy Greene's. Mr. Lincoln was riding with 
me, and we had a very bad branch to cross. The other 
gentlemen were very officious in seeing that their partners 
got safely over. We were behind, he riding in, never looking 
back to see how I got along. When I rode up beside him, I 
remarked, 'You are a nice fellow ! I suppose you did not 
care whether my neck was broken or not.' He laughingly 
replied (I suppose by way of compliment), that he knew I 
was plenty smart to take care of myself. 

"In many things he was sensitive almost to a fault. He 
told me of an incident : that he was crossing a prairie one day 
and saw before him, 'a hog mired down/ to use his own 
language. He was rather 'fixed up/ and he resolved that he 
would pass on without looking at the shoat. After he had 
gone by, he said the feeling was irresistible; and he had to 
look back, and the poor thing seemed to say wistfully, There 
now, my last hope is gone' ; that he deliberately got down and 
relieved it from its difficulty. 

"In many things we were congenial spirits. In politics 
we saw eye to eye, though since then we differed as widely 
as the South is from the North. But methinks I hear you 
say, 'Save me from a political woman !' So say I. 

"The last message I ever received from him was about a 
year after we parted in Illinois. Mrs. Able visited Kentucky, 
and he said to her in Springfield, 'Tell your sister that I think 
she was a great fool because she did not stay here and marry 
me/ Characteristic of the man! 

"Respectfully yours, 

"Mary S. Vineyard." 

We have thus been favored with the lady's side of this 
case, and it is but fair that we should hear the testimony 
of her honest but ungainly suitor. Fortunately for us and 
for history we have his view of the case in a series of 



letters which have been preserved with zealous care by the 
lady's family. The first letter was written from Vandalia, 
December 13, 1836, where the Legislature to which he be- 
longed was in session. After reciting the progress of legis- 
lation and the flattering prospect that then existed for the 
removal of the seat of govenment to Spingfield, he gets 
down to personal matters by apprising her of his illness for 
a few days, coupled with the announcement that he is mor- 
tified by daily trips to the post-office in quest of her letter, 
which it seemed never would arrive. "You see," he com- 
plains, "I am mad about that old letter yet. I don't like 
to risk you again. I'll try you once more, anyhow." 
Further along in the course of the missive, he says : "You 
recollect, I mentioned at the outset of this letter, that I had 
been unwell. That is the fact though I believe I am about 
well now ; but that, with other things I cannot account for, 
have conspired, and have gotten my spirits so low that I 
feel that I would rather be in any place in the world than 
here. I really cannot endure the thought of staying here 
ten weeks. Write back as soon as you get this, and if pos- 
sible, say something that will please me ; for really, I have 
not been pleased since I left you. This letter is so dry 
and stupid," he mournfully concludes, "that I am ashamed 
to send it, but with my present feelings I cannot do any 

After the adjournment of the Legislature he returned to 
Springfield, from which point it was a matter of easy 
driving to reach New Salem, where his lady-love was so- 
journing, and where he could pay his addresses in person. 
It should be borne in mind that he had by this time re- 
moved to Springfield, the county seat, and entered on the 
practice of the law. In the gloom resulting from lack of 
funds and the dim prospects for business, he found time 
to communicate with the friend whose case was constantly 
uppermost in his mind. Here is one characteristic letter: 

"Springfield, May 7, 1837. 
"Friend Mary : 

"I have commenced two letters to send you before this, both 
of which displeased me before I got half done, and so I tore 


them up. The first I thought wasn't serious enough, and the 
second was on the other extreme. I shall send this, turn out 
as it may. 

"This thing of living in Springfield is rather a dull business 
after all — at least it is so to me. I am quite as lonesome here 
as [I] ever was anywhere in my life. I have been spoken 
to by but one woman since I've been here, and should not 
have been by her if she could have avoided it. I've never been 
to church yet, and probably shall not be soon. I stay away 
because I am conscious I should not know how to behave 
myself. I am often thinking of what we said of your coming 
to live at Springfield. I am afraid you would not be satis- 
field. There is a great deal of flourishing about in carriages 
here, which it would be your doom to see without sharing in 
it. You would have to be poor without the means of hiding 
your poverty. Do you believe you could bear that patiently? 
Whatever woman may cast her lot with mine, should anyone 
ever do so, it is my intention to do all in my power to make 
her happy and contented, and there is nothing I can imagine 
that would make me more unhappy than to fail in the effort. 
I know I should be much happier with you than the way I 
am, provided I saw no signs of discontent in you. 

"What you have said to me may have been in jest or I 
may have misunderstood it. If so, then let it be forgotten; 
if otherwise I much wish you would think seriously before 
you decide. For my part I have already decided. What I 
have said I will most positively abide by, provided you wish 
it. My opinion is you had better not do it. You have not 
been accustomed to hardship, and it may be more severe than 
you imagine. I know you are capable of thinking correctly 
on any subject; and if you deliberate maturely upon this be- 
fore you decide, then I am willing to abide your decision. 

"You must write me a good long letter after you get this. 
You have nothing else to do, and though it might not seem 
interesting to you after you have written it, it would be a 
good deal of company in this busy wilderness. Tell your 
sister I don't want to hear any more about selling out and 
moving. That gives me the hypo whenever I think of it. 

"Yours, etc. 


Very few if any men can be found who in fond pursuit 
of their love would present their case voluntarily in such 



an unfavorable light. In one breath he avows his affection 
for the lady whose image is constantly before him, and in 
the next furnishes her reasons why she ought not to marry 
him ! During the warm, dry summer months he kept up 
the siege without apparent diminution of zeal. He was 
as assiduous as ever, and in August was anxious to force 
a decision. On the 16th he had a meeting with her which 
terminated much like a drawn battle — at least it seems to 
have afforded him but little encouragement, for on his 
return to Springfield he immediately indulged in an epis- 
tolary effusion stranger than any that preceded it. 

''Friend Mary : 

"You will no doubt think it rather strange that I should 
write you a letter on the same day on which we parted; and 
I can only account for it by supposing that seeing you lately 
makes me think of you more than usual, while at our late 
meeting we had but few expressions of thoughts. You must 
know that I cannot see you or think of you with entire in- 
difference; and yet it may be that you are mistaken in regard 
to what my real feelings towards you are. If I knew you 
were not, I should not trouble you with this letter. Perhaps 
any other man would know enough without further informa- 
tion, but I consider it my peculiar right to plead ignorance 
and your bounden duty to allow the plea. 

"I want in all cases to do right; and most particularly so 
in all cases with women. I want, at this particular time, more 
than anything else, to do right with you, and if I knew it 
would be doing right, as I rather suspect it would, to let you 
alone, I would do it. And for the purpose of making the 
matter as plain as possible, I now say, that you can now drop 
the subject, dismiss your thoughts (if you ever had any) from 
me forever, and leave this letter unanswered, without calling 
forth one accusing murmur from me. And I will even go 
farther, and say, that if it will add anything to your comfort or 
peace of mind to do so, it is my sincere wish that you should. 
Do not understand by this that I wish to cut your acquaint- 
ance. I mean no such thing. What I do wish is that our 
further acquaintance shall depend upon yourself. If such 
further acqaintance would contribute nothing to your happi- 
ness, I am sure it would not to mine. If you feel yourself in 
any degree bound to me, I am now willing to release you, 


provided you wish it; while, on the other hand, I am willing 
and even anxious to bind you faster if I can be convinced that 
it will in any considerable degree add to your happiness. 
This, indeed, is the whole question with me. Nothing- would 
make me more miserable, nothing more happy, than to know 
you were so. 

"In what I have now said, I think I cannot be misunder- 
stood; and to make myself understood is the sole object of this 

"If it suits you best to not answer this — farewell — a long 
life and a merry one attend you. But if you conclude to 
write back, speak as plainly as I do. There can be neither 
harm nor danger in saying to me anything you think, just in 
the manner you think it. 

"My respects to your sister. 

"Your friend, 


For an account of the final outcome of this affaire du 
coeur the reader is now referred to the most ludicrous letter 
Mr. Lincoln ever wrote. It has been said, but with how 
much truth I do not know, that during his term as Presi- 
dent the lady to whom it was written — Mrs. O. H. Brown- 
ing, wife of a fellow-member of the legislature — before 
giving a copy of it to a biographer, wrote to Lincoln ask- 
ing his consent to the publication, but that he answered 
warning her against it because it was too full of truth. 
The only biographer who ever did insert it apologized for 
its appearance in his book, regarding it for many reasons 
as an extremely painful duty. "If it could be withheld," 
he laments, "and the act decently reconciled to the con- 
science of a biographer 1 professing to be honest and can- 
did, it should never see the light in these pages. Its gro- 
tesque humor, its coarse exaggerations in describing the 
person of a lady whom the writer was willing to marry; 
its imputation of toothless and weatherbeaten old age to a 
woman really young and handsome ; its utter lack of that 
delicacy of tone and sentiment which one naturally expects 
a gentleman to adopt when he thinks proper to discuss 
the merits of his late mistress — all these, and its defec- 

1 Lamon, Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 181. 


tive orthography, it would certainly be more agreeable to 
suppress than to publish. But if we begin by omitting or 
mutilating a document which sheds so broad a light upon 
one part of his life and one phase of his character, why 
may we not do the like as fast and as often as the tempta- 
tion arises? and where shall the process cease?" 

I prefer not to take such a serious view of the letter 
or its publication. My idea is, that Mr. Lincoln got into 
one of his irresistible moods of humor and fun — a state of 
feeling into which he frequently worked himself to avert 
the overwhelming effects of his constitutional melancholy 
— and in the inspiration of the moment penned this letter, 
which many regard as an unfortunate composition. The 
class who take such a gloomy view of the matter should 
bear in mind that the letter was written by Mr. Lincoln in 
the fervor of early manhood, just as he was emerging from 
a most embarrassing situation, and addressed to a friend 
whom he supposed would keep it sacredly sealed from the 
public eye. As a matter of fact Mr. Lincoln was not 
gifted with a ready perception of the propriety of things 
in all cases. Nothing with him was intuitive. /> Io have 
profound judgment and just discrimination he required 
time to think ; and if facts or events were forced before 
him in too rapid succession the machinery of his judgment 
failed to work. A knowledge of this fact will account for 
the letter, and also serve to rob the offence — if any was 
committed — of half its severity. 

The letter was written in the same month Miss Owens 
made her final departure from Illinois. 

"Springfield, April 1, 1838. 
"Dear Madam : — 

"Without apologizing for being egotistical, I shall make the 
history of so much of my life as has elapsed since I saw you 
the subject of this letter. And, by the way, I now discover 
that, in order to give a full and intelligible account of the 
things I have done and suffered since I saw you, I shall neces- 
sarily have to relate some that happened before. 

"It was, then, in the autumn of 1836 that a married lady 
of my acquaintance and who was a great friend of mine, 


being about to pay a visit to her father and other relatives 
residing in Kentucky, proposed to me that on her return 
she would bring a sister of hers with her on condition that I 
would engage to become her brother-in-law with all con- 
venient despatch. I, of course, accepted the proposal, for you 
know I could not have done otherwise, had I really been 
averse to it; but privately, between you and me I was most 
confoundedly well pleased with the project. I had seen the 
said sister some three years before, thought her intelligent 
and agreeable, and saw no good objection to plodding life 
through hand in hand with her. Time passed on, the lady 
took her journey, and in due time returned, sister in company 
sure enough. This astonished me a little; for it appeared to 
me that her coming so readily showed that she was a trifle 
too willing; but, on reflection, it occurred to me that she 
might have been prevailed on by her married sister to come, 
without anything concerning me ever having been mentioned 
to her; and so I concluded that, if no other objection pre- 
sented itself, I would consent to waive this. All this occurred 
to me on hearing of her arrival in the neighborhood; for, be 
it remembered, I had not yet seen her, except about three 
years previous, as above mentioned. In a few days we had 
an interview; and, although I had seen her before, she did 
not look as my imagination had pictured her. I knew she was 
over-size, but she now appeared a fair match for Falstaff". I 
knew she was called an 'old maid/ and I felt no doubt of the 
truth of at least half of the appellation; but now, when I be- 
held her, I could not for my life avoid thinking of my mother ; 
and this, not from withered features, for her skin was too 
full of fat to permit of its contracting into wrinkles, but from 
her want of teeth, weather-beaten appearance in general, and 
from a kind of notion that ran in my head that nothing could 
have commenced at the size of infancy and reached her present 
bulk in less than thirty-five or forty years ; and, in short, I was 
not at all pleased with her. But what could I do ? I had told 
her sister I would take her for better or for worse; and I 
made a point of honor and conscience in all things to stick 
to my word, especially if others had been induced to act on it, 
which in this case I had no doubt they had; for I was now 
fairly convinced that no other man on earth would have her, 
and hence the conclusion that they were bent on holding me 
to my bargain. 'Well/ thought I, T have said it, and, be the 
consequences what they may, it shall not be my fault if I fail 


to do it.' At once I determined to consider her my wife ; and, 
this done, all my powers of discovery were put to work in 
search of perfections in her which might be fairly set off 
against her defects. I tried to imagine her handsome, which, 
but for her unfortunate corpulency, was actually true. Exclu- 
sive of this, no woman that I have ever seen has a finer face. 
I also tried to convince myself that the mind was much more 
to be valued than the person ; and in this she was not inferior, 
as I could discover, to any with whom I had been acquainted. 

" Shortly after this, without coming to any positive under- 
standing with her, I set out for Vandalia, when and where you 
first saw me. During my stay there I had letters from her 
which did not change my opinion of either her intellect or 
intention, but on the contrary confirmed it in both. 

"All this while, although I was fixed, 'firm as the surge- 
repelling rock/ in my resolution, I found I was continually 
repenting the rashness which had led me to make it. Through 
life, I have been in no bondage, either real or imaginary, from 
the thraldom of which I so much desired to be free. After 
my return home, I saw nothing to change my opinions of her 
in any particular. She was the same, and so was I. I now 
spent my time in planning how I might get along through life 
after my contemplated change of circumstances should have 
taken place, and how I might procrastinate the evil day for 
a time, which I really dreaded as much, perhaps more, than 
an Irishman does the halter. 

"After all my suffering upon this deeply interesting sub- 
ject, here I am, wholly, unexpectedly, completely, out of the 
'scrape' ; and now I want to know if you can guess how I 
got out of it — out, clear, in every sense of the term; no viola- 
tion of word, honor, or conscience. I don't believe you can 
guess, and so I might as well tell you at once. As the 
lawyer says, it was done in the manner following, to-wit: 
After I had delayed the matter as long as I thought I could 
in honor do (which, by the way, had brought me round into 
the last fall), I concluded I might as well bring it to a con- 
summation without further delay; and so I mustered my 
resolution, and made the proposal to her direct; but, shock- 
ing to relate, she answered, No. At first I supposed she did 
it through an affectation of modesty, which I thought but ill 
became her under the peculiar circumstances of her case; 
but on my renewal of the charge, I found she repelled it with 
greater firmness than before. I tried it again and again, but 


with the same success, or rather with the same want of suc- 

"I finally was forced to give it up; at which I very unex- 
pectedly found myself mortified almost beyond endurance. I 
was mortified, it seemed to me, in a hundred different ways. 
My vanity was deeply wounded by the reflection that I had 
been too stupid to discover her intentions, and at the same 
time never doubting that I understood them perfectly; and 
also that she, whom I had taught myself to believe nobody else 
would have, had actually rejected me with all my fancied 
greatness. And, to cap the whole, I then for the first time 
began to suspect that I was really a little in love with her. 
But let it all go. I'll try and outlive it. Others have been 
made fools of by the girls; but this can never with truth be 
said of me. I most emphatically, in this instance, made a fool 
of myself. I have now come to the conclusion never again 
to think of marrying, and for this reason: I can never be 
satisfied with any one who would be blockhead enough to 
have me. 

"When you receive this, write me a long yarn about some- 
thing to amuse me. Give my respects to Mr. Browning. 

"Your sincere friend, 

"A. Lincoln." 

Mrs. O. H. Browning. 

As before mentioned Miss Owens was afterwards mar- 
ried and became the mother of five children. Two of her 
sons served in the Confederate army. She died July 4, 
1877. ^Speaking of Mr. Lincoln a short time before her 
death she referred to him as "a man with a heart full of 
human kindness and a head full of common-sense." 



Legislature to which he had been elected by such a com- 
plimentary majority. Through the generosity of his friend 
Smoot he purchased a new suit of clothes, and entering 
the stage at New Salem, rode through to Vandalia, the 
seat of government. He appreciated the dignity of his new 
position, and instead of walking to the capital, as some 
of his biographers have contended, availed himself of the 
usual mode of travel. At this session of the Legislature 
he was anything but conspicuous. In reality he was very 
modest, but shrewd enough to impress the force of his 
character on those persons whose influence might some day 
be of advantage to him. He made but little stir, if we are 
to believe the record, during the whole of this first session. 
Made a member of the committee on Public Accounts and 
Expenditures, his name appears so seldom in the reports of 
the proceedings that we are prone to conclude that he must 
have contented himself with listening to the flashes of 
border oratory and absorbing his due proportion of par- 
liamentary law. He was reserved in manner, but very 
observant ; said little, but learned much ; made the acquaint- 
ance of all the members and many influential persons on 
the outside. The lobby at that day contained the repre- 
sentative men of the state — men of acknowledged promi- 
nence and respectability, many of them able lawyers, drawn 
thither in advocacy of some pet bill. Schemes of vast 
internal improvements attracted a retinue of log-rollers, 
who in later days seem to have been an indispensable 
necessity in the movement of complicated legislative ma- 
chinery. Men of capital and brains were there. He early 


realized the importance of knowing all these, trusting to 
the inspiration of some future hour to impress them with 
his skill as an organizer or his power as an orator. Among 
the members of the outside or "third body" was Stephen 
A. Douglas, whom Lincoln then saw for the first time. 
Douglas had come from Vermont only the year before, but 
was already undertaking to supplant John J. Hardin in the 
office of States Attorney for the district in which both 
lived. What impression he made on Lincoln, what opinions 
each formed of the other, or what the extent of their 
acquaintance then was, we do not know. It is said that 
Lincoln afterwards in mentioning their first meeting ob- 
served of the newly-arrived Vermonter that he was the 
"least man he had ever seen." The Legislature proper 
contained the youth and blood and fire of the frontier. 
Some of the men who participated in these early parlia- 
mentary battles were destined to carry the banners of 
great political parties, some to lead in war and some in 
the great council chamber of the nation. Some were to 
fill the Governor's office, others to wear the judicial ermine, 
and one was destined to be Chief Magistrate and die a i 
martyr to the cause of human liberty. l^. 

The society of Vandalia and the people attracted thither 
by the Legislature made it, for that early day, a gay place 
indeed. Compared to Lincoln's former environments, it 
had no lack of refinement and polish. That he ab- 
sorbed a good deal of this by contact with the men and 
women who surrounded him there can be no doubt. The 
"drift of sentiment and the sweep of civilization" at this 
time can best be measured by the character of the legis- 
lation. There were acts to incorporate banks, turnpikes, 
bridges, insurance companies, towns, railroads, and female 
academies. The vigor and enterprise of New England 
fusing with the illusory prestige of Kentucky and Virginia 
was fast forming a new civilization to spread over the 
prairies ! At this session Lincoln remained quietly in the 
background, and contented himself with the introduction 
of a resolution in favor of securing to the State a part of 
the proceeds of sales of public lands within its limits. 


[This resolution offered January 10, 1835, was laid on the 
table, and Lincoln made no further effort to bring it to a 
vote. In addition to serving on the Committee of Public 
Accounts and Expenditures, he was appointed to two select 
committees — one to examine a bill to increase the number 
of election precincts in Morgan County; the other with 
reference to the duties of the Attorney General.] 

With this brief and modest record he returned to his 
constituents at New Salem. With zealous perseverance, 
he renewed his application to the law and to surveying, 
continuing his studies in both departments until he became, 
as he thought, reliable and proficient. By reason of a 
change in the office of Surveyor for the county he became 
a deputy under Thomas M. Neale, who had been elected 
to succeed John Calhoun. The speculation in lands made 
a brisk business for the new surveyor, who even added 
Calhoun, his predecessor, to the list of deputies. Lin- 
coln had now become somewhat established in the good- 
will and respect of his constituents. His bashfulness and 
timidity was gradually giving way to a feeling of self- 
confidence, and he began to exult over his ability to stand 

[In the late autumn of 1835 Governor Duncan called a 
special session of the Legislature. Convening on December 
7, the session lasted two months, and in it Lincoln took an 
active part. He supported the State Bank in various 
measures of which it was the subject; he upheld acts look- 
ing toward the construction of the Illinois and Michi- 
gan Canal, and gave his vote for a proposal that Congress 
allow Illinois to enter not more than 500,000 acres of 
government land on credit as an aid in making internal 

National politics frequently intruded during the special 
session. On the first day a Democratic convention met at 
Vandalia and issued an address in support of Van Buren. 
Within a short time the Senate, Whig by a majority of 
one, nominated Hugh L. White of Tennessee for the Presi- 
dency. The House, Democratic, retaliated with a series of 
resolutions bitterly anti-Whig in character. Much party 


skirmishing, in which Lincoln took an active part, resulted. 
The session ended February 7, 1836.] 

The brief taste of public office which he had just enjoyed, 
and the distinction it gave him only whetted his appetite 
for further honors. Accordingly, in 1836 we find him a 
candidate for the Legislature again. I well remember this 
campaign and the election which followed, for my father, 
Archer G. Herndon, was also a candidate, aspiring to a 
seat in the State Senate. The legislature at the session 
previous had in its apportionment bill increased the delega- 
tion from Sangamon County to seven Representatives and 
two Senators. Party conventions had not yet been in- 
vented, and there being no nominating machinery to inter- 
fere, the field was open for any and all to run. Lincoln 
again resorted, in opening his canvass, to the medium of 
the political handbill. Although it had not operated with the 
most satisfactory results in his first campaign, yet he felt 
willing to risk it again. Candidates of that day evinced 
far more willingness to announce their position than 
political aspirants do now. Without waiting for a conven- 
tion to construct a platform, or some great political leader 
to "sound the key-note of the campaign," they stepped to 
the forefront and blew the bugle themselves. This custom 
will account for the boldness of Lincoln's utterances and 
the unequivocal tone of his declarations. His card — a sort 
of political f ulmination — was as follows : 

"New Salem, June 13, 1836. 
"To the Editor of The Journal: 

"In your paper of last Saturday I see a communication over 
the signature of 'Many Voters' in which the candidates who 
are announced in the Journal are called upon to 'show their 
hands.' Agreed. Here's mine: 

"I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who 
assist in bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go for admitting 
all whites to the right of suffage who pay taxes or bear arms 
(by no means excluding females). 

"If elected I shall consider the whole people of Sangamon 
my constituents, as well those that oppose as those that sup- 
port me. 


"While acting as their Representative, I shall be governed 
by their will on all subjects upon which I have the means of 
knowing what their will is ; and upon all others I shall do 
what my own judgment teaches me will best advance their 
interests. Whether elected or not, I go for distributing the 
proceeds of the sales of public lands to the several States to 
enable our State, in common with others, to dig canals and 
construct railroads without borrowing money and paying the 
interest on it. 

"If alive on the first Monday in November, I shall vote for 
Hugh L. White for President. 

"Very respectfully, 

"A. Lincoln." 

It is generally admitted that the bold and decided stand 
Lincoln took — though too audacious and emphatic for 
statesmen of a later day — suited the temper of the times. 
Leaving out of sight his expressed preference for White 
of Tennessee, — on whom all the anti- Jackson forces were 
disposed to concentrate, and which was but a mere ques- 
tion of men, — there is much food for thought in the second 
paragraph. His broad plan for universal suffrage cer- 
tainly commends itself to the ladies, and we need no further 
evidence to satisfy our minds of his position on the subject 
of "Woman's Rights," had he lived. In fact, I cannot 
refrain from noting here what views he in after years held 
with reference to the great questions of moral and social 
reforms, under which he classed universal suffrage, tem- 
perance, and slavery. "All such questions," he observed 
one day, as we were discussing temperance in the office, 
"must first find lodgment with the most enlightened souls 
who stamp them with their approval. In God's own time 
they will be organized into law and thus woven into the 
fabric of our institutions." 

The canvass which followed this public avowal of creed, 
was more exciting than any which had preceded it. There 
were joint discussions, and, at times, much feeling was 
exhibited. Each candidate had his friends freely dis- 
tributed through the crowd, and it needed but a few angry 
interruptions or insinuating rejoinders from one speaker 


to another to bring on a conflict between their friends. 
Frequently the speakers led in the battle themselves, as in 
the case of Ninian W. Edwards — afterwards a brother- 
in-law of Lincoln — who, in debate, drew a pistol on his 
opponent Achilles Morris, a prominent Democrat. An 
interesting relic of this canvass recently came to light, in 
a letter which Mr. Lincoln wrote a week after he had an- 
nounced his candidacy. It is addressed to Colonel Robert 
Allen, a Democratic politician of local prominence, who 
had been circulating some charges intended to affect Lin- 
coln's chances of election. The affair brought to the 
surface what little satire there was in Lincoln's nature, 
and he administers — by way of innuendo — such a flaying 
as the gallant colonel doubtless never wanted to have 
repeated. The strangest part of it all is that the letter was 
recently found and given to the public by Allen's own 
son. It is as follows : 

"New Salem, June 21, 1836. 
"Dear Colonel: 

"I am told that during my absence last week you passed 
through this place and stated publicly that you were in 
possession of a fact or facts, which if known to the public 
would entirely destroy the prospects of N. W. Edwards and 
myself at the ensuing election, but that through favor to us 
you would forbear to divulge them. No one has needed 
favors more than I, and generally few have been less unwill- 
ing to accept them, but in this case favor to me would be in- 
justice to the public, and therefore I must beg your pardon 
for declining it. That I once had the confidence of the people 
of Sangamon county is sufficiently evident ; and. if I have done 
anything, either by design or misadventure, which if known 
would subject me to a forfeiture of that confidence, he that: 
knows of that thing, and conceals it, is a traitor to his 
country's interest. 

"I find myself wholly unable to form any conjecture of 
what fact or facts, real or supposed, you spoke; but my 
opinion of your veracity will not permit me for a moment to 
doubt that you at least believed what you said. I am flattered 
with the personal regard you manifested for me; but I do 
hope that on mature reflection you will view the public in- 


terest as a paramount consideration and therefore let the 
worst come. 

"I assure you that the candid statement of facts on your 
part, however low it may sink me, shall never break the ties 
of personal friendship between us. 

"I wish an answer to this, and you are at liberty to publish 
both if you choose. 

"Very respectfully, 

"A. Lincoln." 
Col. Robert Allen. 

Lincoln was sure the letter never would be published 
or answered, because Allen had no facts whatever upon 
which to base any such charges. He also knew that Allen, 
who was a hide-bound Democrat, was in politics the most 
unreliable man in Sangamon County. A vein of irony 
runs all through the letter, especially where in such a 
delicate way he pays tribute to the veracity of Allen, who, 
although a generous fellow in the ordinary sense of the 
term, was unlimited in exaggeration and a veritable bag 
of wind. The effort to smoke him out appears to have 
been of little effect, but enough appears in Lincoln's let- 
ter to show that he was thoroughly warmed up. 

A joint debate in which all the candidates participated, 
took place on the Saturday preceding the election. "The 
speaking began in the forenoon," says one of the partici- 
pants, "the candidates speaking alternately until everyone 
who could speak had had his turn, generally consuming the 
whole afternoon." Dr. Early, a Democratic candidate, 
in his speech took issue with Ninian W. Edwards, stigma- 
tizing some of the latter's statements as untrue. This 
brought Edwards to his feet with a similar retort. His 
angry tone and menacing manner, as he mounted a table 
and with clenched fist hurled deficane at his challenger, fore- 
boded a tumultous scene. "The excitement that followed," 
relates another one of the candidates, R. L. Wilson, "was 
intense — so much so that fighting men thought a duel must 
settle the difficulty. Mr. Lincoln by the programme fol- 
lowed Early. Taking up the subject in dispute, he handled 
it so fairly and with such ability, all were astonished and 


pleased." The turbulent spirits were quieted and the 
difficulty was easily overcome. 

Lincoln's friend Joshua F. Speed relates that during 
this campaign he made a speech in Springfield a few days 
before the election. "The crowd was large," says Speed, 
"and great numbers of his friends and admirers had come 
in from the country. I remember that his speech was a 
very able one, using with great power and originality all 
the arguments used to sustain the principles of the Whig 
party as against its great rival, the Democratic party of 
that day. The speech produced a profound impression — 
the crowd was with him. George Forquer, an old citizen, 
a man of recognized prominence and ability as a lawyer, 
was present. Forquer had been a Whig — one of the cham- 
pions of the party — but had then recently joined the 
Democratic party, and almost simultaneous with the change 
had been appointed Register of the Land Office, which 
office he then held. Just about that time Mr. Forquer 
had completed a neat frame house — the best house then 
in Springfield — and over it had erected a lightning rod, 
the only one in the place and the first one Mr. Lincoln had 
ever seen. He afterwards told me that seeing Forquer's 
lightning rod had led him to the study of the properties 
of electricity and the utility of the rod as a conductor. 
At the conclusion of Lincoln's speech the crowd was 
about dispersing, when Forquer rose and asked to be 
heard. He commenced by saying that the young man 
would have to be taken down, and was sorry the task 
devolved on him. He then proceeded to answer Lincoln's 
speech in a style which, while it was able and fair, in his 
whole manner asserted and claimed superiority." Lincoln 
stood a few steps away with arms folded, carefully watch- 
ing the speaker and taking in everything he said. He was 
laboring under a good deal of suppressed excitement. 
Forquer's sting had roused the lion within him. At length 
Forquer concluded, and he mounted the stand to reply. 

"I have heard him often since," continued Speed, "in 
the courts and before the people, but never saw him ap- 
pear and acquit himself so well as upon that occasion. 


His reply to Forquer was characterized by great dignity 
and force. I shall never forget the conclusion of that 
speech: 'Mr. Forquer commenced his speech by announc- 
ing that the young man would have to be taken down. 
It is for you, fellow citizens, not for me to say whether I 
am up or down. The gentleman has seen fit to allude to 
my being a young man ; but he forgets that I am older 
in years than I am in the tricks and trades of politicians. 
I desire to live, and I desire place and distinction; but I 
would rather die now than, like the gentleman, live to see 
the day that I would change my politics for an office worth 
three thousand dollars a year, and then feel compelled 
to erect a lightning rod to protect a guilty conscience 
from an offended God'." The effect of this rejoinder was 
wonderful, and gave Forquer and his lightning rod a 
notoriety the extent of which no one envied him. 

In the election which followed, Sangamon County in a 
political sense was entirely turned over. Hitherto the 
Democrats had always carried it, but now the Whigs 
gained control by an average majority of four hundred. 
This time Lincoln led his ticket. The nine elected were, 
Abraham Lincoln, Ninian W. Edwards, John Dawson, 
Andrew McCormick, Dan Stone, Wm. F. Elkin, Robert 
L. Wilson, Job Fletcher, and Archer G. Herndon. The 
last two were senators. On assembling at Vandalia they 
were at once, on account of their stature, dubbed the 
"Long Nine." In height they averaged over six feet, and 
in weight over two hundred pounds. "We were not only 
noted," says one of them, Robert L. Wilson, "for our 
number and length, but for our combined influence. All 
the bad or objectional laws passed at that session of the 
Legislature and for many years afterwards were charge- 
able to the management and influence of the 'Long Nine'." 
It is not my purpose to enter into a detailed account of 
legislation at this period or to rehearse the history of the 
political conditions. Many and ingenious were the ma- 
noeuvres, but it would fill page after page to narrate them. 
One thing which deserves mention in passing was "that 
Yankee contrivance," the convention system, which for the 


first time was brought into use. The Democrats, in obe- 
dience to the behests of Jackson, had adopted it, and, 
singularly enough, among the very first named for office 
under the operation of the new system was Stephen A. 
Douglas, who was elected to the Legislature from Morgan 
County. Its introduction was attributed to Ebenezer Peck, 
of Chicago, a Democrat who had once, it was said, served 
in the Canadian Parliament. This latter supposed con- 
nection with a monarchical institution was sufficient to 
bring down on his head the united hostility of the Whigs, 
a feeling in which even Lincoln joined. But after witness- 
ing for a time the wonderful effects of its discipline in 
Democratic ranks, the Whigs too fell in, and resorted to 
the use of the improved machinery. 

The Legislature of which Mr. Lincoln thus became a 
member was one that will never be forgotten in Illinois. 
Its legislation in aid of the so-called internal improvement 
system was significantly reckless and unwise. The gigan- 
tic and stupendous operations of the scheme dazzled the 
eyes of nearly everybody, but in the end it rolled up a debt 
so enormous as to impede the otherwise marvelous prog- 
ress of Illinois. The burdens imposed by this Legislature 
under the guise of improvements became so monumental 
in size it is little wonder that at intervals for years after- 
ward the monster of repudiation often showed its hideous j 
face above the waves of popular indignation. These at-* • 
tempts at a settlement of the debt brought about a con- 
dition of things which it is said led the Little Giant, 
in one of his efforts on the stump, to suggest that "Illinois 
ought to be honest if she never paid a cent." However 
much we may regret that Lincoln took part and aided 
in this reckless legislation, we must not forget that his 
party and all his constituents gave him their united en- 
dorsement. They gave evidence of their approval of his 
course by two subsequent elections to the same office. It 
has never surprised me in the least that Lincoln fell so 
harmoniously in with the great system of improvement. 
He never had what some people call "money sense." By 
reason of his peculiar nature and construction he was en- 


dowed with none of the elements of a political economist. 
He was enthusiastic and theoretical up to a certain degree ; 
could take hold of, and wrap himself up in, a great moral 
question ; but in dealing with the financial and commercial 
interests of a community or government he was equally 
as inadequate as he was ineffectual in managing the econ- 
omy of his own household. In this respect alone I always 
regarded Mr. Lincoln as a weak man. 

One of his biographers, describing his legislative career 
at this time, says of him: "He was big with prospects: 
his real public service was just now about to begin. In 
the previous Legislature he had been silent, observant, 
studious. He had improved the opportunity so well that 
of all men in this new body, of equal age in the service, 
he was the smartest parliamentarian and cunningest 'log 
roller.' He was fully determined to identify himself con- 
spicuously with the liberal legislation in contemplation, 
and dreamed of a fame very different from that which 
he actually obtained as an anti-slavery leader. It was 
about this time he told his friend Speed that he aimed 
at the great distinction of being called the 'DeWitt Clin- 
ton of Illinois'." 

The representatives in the Legislature from Sangamon 
County had been instructed by a mass convention of their 
constituents to vote "for a general system of internal 
improvements." Another convention of delegates from all 
the counties in the State met at Vandalia and made a 
similar recommendation to the members of the Legisla- 
ture, specifying that it should be "commensurate with the 
wants of the people." Provision was made for a grid- 
iron of railroads. The extreme points of the State, east 
and west, north and south, were to be brought together 
by thirteen hundred miles of iron rails. Every river and 
stream of the least importance was to be widened, deepened, 
and made navigable. A canal to connect the Illinois River 
and Lake Michigan was to be dug, and thus the great sys- 
tem was to be made "commensurate with the wants of the 
people." To effect all these great ends, a loan of twelve 


million dollars was authorized before the session closed. 
Work on all these gigantic enterprises was to begin at the 
earliest practicable moment ; cities were to spring up 
everywhere ; capital from abroad was to come pouring in ; 
attracted by the glowing reports of marvelous progress 
and great internal wealth, people were to come swarming 
in by colonies, until in the end Illinois was to outstrip all 
the others, and herself become the Empire State of the 

Lincoln served on the Committee on Finance, and 
zealously labored for the success of the great measures 
proposed, believing they would ultimately enrich the State, 
and redound to the glory of all who aided in their passage. 
In advocating these extensive and far-reaching plans he 
was not alone. Stephen A. Douglas, John A. McClernand, 
James Shields, and others prominent in the subsequent 
history of the State, were equally as earnest in espous- 
ing the cause of improvement, and sharing with him the 
glory that attended it. Next in importance came the bill 
to remove the seat of government from Vandalia. Spring- 
field, of course, wanted it. So also did Alton, Decatur, 
Peoria, Jacksonville, and Illiopolis. But the Long Nine, 
by their adroitness and influence, were too much for their 
contestants. They made a bold fight for Springfield, in- 
trusting the management of the bill to Lincoln. The 
friends of other* cities fought Springfield bitterly, but 
under Lincoln's leadership the Long Nine contested with 
them every inch of the way. The struggle was' warm and 
protracted. "Its enemies,"' relates one of Lincoln's col- 
leagues (R. L. Wilson), "laid it on the table twice. In 
those darkest hours when our bill to all appearances was 
beyond resuscitation, and all our opponents were jubilant 
over our defeat, and when friends could see no hope, Mr. 
Lincoln never for one moment despaired ; but collecting his 
colleagues to his room for consultation, his practical com- 
mon-sense, his thorough knowledge of human nature, then 
made him an overmatch for his compeers and for any 
man that I have ever known." The friends of the bill 


at last surmounted all obstacles, and only a day or two 
before the close of the session secured its passage by a 
joint vote of both houses. 

[In 1819 the State capital had been removed from 
Kaskaskia to an uninhabited spot on the Kaskaskia River 
which was christened Vandalia. The reason for the trans- 
fer lay in the hope that the State, which owned the land 
on which the new capital was located, would profit by the 
sale of town lots. The hope proved to be futile, since 
population increased much less rapidly than had been an- 
ticipated. Moreover, the new capital soon became known 
as unhealthy, and its inns and boarding houses were no- 
torious for their poor accommodations and high prices. 
As a result, agitation for the removal of the seat of gov- 
ernment began long before the expiration of the twenty 
year period for which the location had been made. 

As early as 1834 a popular vote on the site of the cap- 
ital was taken. Alton was successful, but by such a nar- 
row margin that the question admittedly remained un- 
settled. The decisive struggle came in 1837, when the 
subject was taken up by the Legislature. To secure the 
capital for Springfield was the primary purpose of the 
Sangamon delegation. This fact in large part explains 
the course of Lincoln and his colleagues on the internal 
improvement system. Every vote they gave to the various 
parts of that scheme would strengthen their own position 
when the capital law should come to a vote. On the 
fourth ballot Springfield was chosen. In describing the 
manner in which the new location was made Governor 
Ford commented acidly, "Thus it was made to cost the 
State about six millions of dollars to remove the seat of 
government from Vandalia to Springfield, half of which 
sum would have purchased all the real estate in that town 
at three prices."] 

Meanwhile the great agitation against human slavery, 
which like a rare plant had flourished amid the hills of 
New England in luxuriant growth, began to make its ap- 
pearance in the West. Missionaries in the great cause of 


human liberty were settling everywhere. Taunts, jeers, 
ridicule, persecution, assassination even, were destined to 
prove ineffectual in the effort to suppress or exterminate 
these pioneers of Abolitionism. These brave but derided 
apostles carried with them the seed of a great reform. 
Perhaps, as was then said of them, they were somewhat 
in advance of their season, and perhaps too, some of the 
seed might be sown in sterile ground and never come to 
life, but they comforted themselves with the assurance 
that it would not all die. A little here and there was des- 
tined to grow to life and beauty. 

[By the middle thirties Abolition societies were send- 
ing pamphlets and pictures broadcast throughout the coun- 
try. Many were inflammatory, and it is not surprising that 
Southerners became alarmed. During 1836 many Southern 
legislatures passed resolutions on the subject and trans- 
mitted them to Northern states in an effort to stop the 
flood of Abolition literature. In general, these resolu- 
tions asserted the exclusive right of the slaveholding states 
to deal with slavery within their own limits, and asked 
Northern states to suppress by law the anti-slavery societies 
which were attempting to interfere with this right. When 
Governor Duncan transmitted several of these resolutions 
to the Illinois Legislature for its consideration, he precipi- 
tated a lively debate on slavery and Abolitionism.] 

It is not surprising, I think, that Lincoln should have 
viewed this New England importation with mingled sus- 
picion and alarm. Abstractly, and from the standpoint of 
conscience, he abhored slavery. But born in Kentucky, 
and surrounded as he was by slave-holding influences, ab- 
sorbing their prejudices and following in their line of 
thought, it is not strange, I repeat, that he should fail 
to estimate properly the righteous indignation and unre- 
strained zeal of a Yankee Abolitionist. On the last day 
but one of the session, he solicited his colleagues to sign 
with him a mild and carefully worded protest against the 
following resolutions on the subject of domestic slavery, 
which had been passed by both houses of the Legislature 
in answer to the Southern protests : 


"Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of Illinois : 

"That we highly disapprove of the formation of Abolition 
societies and of the doctrines promulgated by them, 

"That the right of property in slaves is sacred to the slave- 
holding States by the Federal Constitution, and that they can- 
not be deprived of that right without their consent, 

"That the General Government cannot abolish slavery in 
the District of Columbia without the consent of the citizens 
of said District, without a manifest breach of good faith, 

"That the Governor be requested to transmit to the States 
of Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, New York, and Connecti- 
cut, a copy of the foregoing report and resolutions." 

All the members declined, however, save one, Dan 
Stone, who with his associate will probably be known long 
after mention of all other members of the Long Nine has 
dropped from history. The language and sentiment are 
clearly Lincolnian, and over twenty years afterward, when 
it was charged that Lincoln was an Abolitionist, and this 
protest was cited as proof, it was only necessary to call 
for a careful reading of the paper for an unqualified and 
overwhelming refutation of the charge. The records of 
the Legislature for March 3, 1837, contain this entry: 

"Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having 
passed both branches of the General Assembly at its present 
session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of 
the same. 

"They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on 
both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of 
abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its 

"They believe that the Congress of the United States has 
no power under the Constitution to interfere with the institu- 
tion of slavery in the different States. 

"They believe that the Congress of the United States has 
the power under the Constitution to abolish slavery in the 
District of Columbia, but that the power ought not to be exer- 
cised unless at the request of the people of the District. 

"The difference between these opinions and those contained 
in the above resolutions is their reason for entering this pro- 
test. "Dan Stone, 

"A. Lincoln, 

"Representatives from the Ccunty of Sangamon." 


This document so adroitly drawn and worded, this pro- 
test pruned of any offensive allusions, and cautiously 
framed so as to suit the temper of the times, stripped of 
its verbal foliage reveals in naked grandeur the solemn 
truth that "the institution of slavery is founded on both 
injustice and bad policy." A quarter of a century later 
finds one of these protesters righting the injustice and 
correcting the bad policy of the inhuman and diabolical 

The return of the "Long Nine" to Springfield was the 
occasion of much enthusiasm and joy. The manifestations 
of public delight had never been equalled before, save when 
the steamer Talisman made its famous trip down the 
Sangamon in 1831. The returning legislators were wel- 
comed with public dinners and the effervescent buncombe 
of local orators. Amid the congratulations of warm 
friends and the approval of their enthusiastic constituents, 
in which Lincoln received the lion's share of praise, they 
separated, each departing to his own home. 

After his return from the Legislature, Lincoln deter- 
mined to remove to Springfield, the county seat, and begin 
the practice of the law. Having been so instrumental in 
securing the removal of the State capital from Vandalia, 
and having received such encouraging assurances from 
Major John T. Stuart and other leading citizens, he felt 
confident of a good start. 1 He had little, if any, money, 
but hoped to find in Springfield, as he had in New Salem, 
good and influential friends, who, recognizing alike his 
honesty and his nobility of character, would aid him when- 

1 In the original edition occurs the following extract from a 
statement which Herndon took from H. E. Dummer, Stuart's 
partner from 1833 to 1837, on September 16, 1865: "Lincoln 
used to come to our office — Stuart's and mine — in Springfield 
from New Salem and borrow law books. Sometimes he walked 
but generally rode. He was the most uncouth looking young 
man I ever saw. He seemed to have but little to say; seemed 
to feel timid, with a tinge of sadness visible in the countenance, 
but when he did talk all this disappeared for the time and he 
demonstrated that he was both strong and acute. He surprised 
us more and more at every visit." 


ever a crisis came and their help was needed. In this hope 
he was by no means in error, for his subsequent history 
shows that he indeed united his friends to himself with 
hooks of steel. I had up to this time frequently seen Mr. 
Lincoln — had often, while visiting my cousins, James and 
Rowan Herndon, at New Salem, met him at their house — 
but became warmly attached to him soon after his removal 
to Springfield. There was something in his tall and 
angular frame, his ill-fitting garments, honest face, and 
lively humor that imprinted his individuality on my affec- 
tion and regard. What impression I made on him I had no 
means of knowing till many years afterward. He was 
my senior by nine years, and I looked up to him, naturally 
enough, as my superior in everything — a thing I continued 
to do till the end of his days. 

Now that the State capital was to be located at Spring- 
field, that place began, by way of asserting its social 
superiority, to put on a good many airs. Wealth made its 
gaudy display, and thus sought to attain a preeminence 
from which learning and refinement are frequently cut off. 
Already, people had settled there who could trace their 
descent down a long line of distinguished ancestry. The 
established families were mainly from Kentucky. They 
reechoed the sentiments and reflected the arrogance and 
elegance of a slave-holding aristocracy. "The Todds, 
Stuarts, and Edwardses were there, with priests, dogs, and 
servants ;" there also were the Mathers, Lambs? Opdykes, 
Forquers, and Fords. Amid all "the flourishing about in 
carriages'' and the pretentious elegance of that early day 
was Lincoln. Of origin, doubtful if not unknown ; "poor, 
without the means of hiding his poverty/' he represented 
yet another importation from Kentucky which is signifi- 
cantly comprehended by the term, "the poor whites." 
Springfield, containing between one and two thousand 
people, was near the northern line of settlement in Illinois. 
Still it was the centre of a limited area of wealth and re- 
finement. Its citizens were imbued with the spirit of 
push and enterprise. Lincoln therefore could not have 
been thrown into a better or more appreciative community. 


In March, 1837, he was licensed to practice law. His 
name appears for the first time as attorney for the plaintiff 
in the case of Hawthorne vs. Woolridge. He entered the 
office and became the partner of his comrade in the Black 
Hawk war, John T. Stuart, who had gained rather an 
extensive practice, and who, by the loan of sundry text- 
books several years before, had encouraged Lincoln to 
continue in the study of law. Stuart had emigrated from 
Kentucky in 1828, and on account of his nativity, if for 
no other reason, had great influence with the leading people 
in Springfield. He used to relate that on the next morning 
after his arrival in Springfield he was standing in front of 
the village store, leaning against a post in the sidewalk 
and wondering how to introduce himself to the community, 
when he was approached by a well-dressed old gentleman, 
who, interesting himself in the newcomer's welfare, en- 
quired after his history and business. "I'm from Ken- 
tucky," answered Stuart, "and my profession is that of a 
lawyer, sir. What is the prospect here?" Throwing his 
head back and closing his left eye the old gentleman re- 
flected a moment. "Young man, d d slim chance for 

that kind of combination here," was the response. 

At the time of Lincoln's entry into the office, Stuart was 
just recovering from the effects of a congressional race in 
which he had been the loser. He was still deeply absorbed 
in politics, and was preparing for the next canvass, in 
which he was finally successful — defeating the wily and 
ambitious Stephen A. Douglas. In consequence of the 
political allurements, Stuart did not give to the law his un- 
divided time or the full force of his energy and intellect. 
Thus more or less responsibility in the management of 
business and the conduct of cases soon devolved on Lin- 
coln. The entries in the account books of the firm are all 
in the handwriting of Lincoln. Most of the declarations 
and pleas were written by him also. This sort of exercise 
was never congenial to him, and it was the only time, save 
a brief period under Judge Logan, that he served as junior 
partner and performed the labor required of one who 
serves in that rather subordinate capacity. He had not 


yet learned to love work. The office of the firm was in the 
upper story of a building opposite the north-west corner of 
the present Courthouse Square. In the room underneath, 
the county court was held. The furniture was in keeping 
with the pretensions of the firm — a small lounge or bed, 
a chair containing a buffalo robe, in which the junior mem- 
ber was wont to sit and study, a hard wooden bench, a 
feeble attempt at a book-case, and a table which answered 
for a desk. Lincoln's first attempt at settlement in Spring- 
field, which preceded a few days his partnership with 
Stuart, has been graphically described by his friend, Joshua 
F. Speed, who generously offered to share his quarters with 
the young legal aspirant. Speed, who was a prosperous 
young merchant, reports that Lincoln's personal effects 
consisted of a pair of saddlebags containing two or three 
law books and a few pieces of clothing. "He had ridden 
into town on a borrowed horse," relates Speed, "and en- 
gaged from the only cabinet-maker in the village a single 
bedstead. He came into my store, set his saddlebags on 
the counter, and inquired what the furniture for a single 
bedstead would cost. I took slate and pencil, made a cal- 
culation, and found the sum for furniture complete would 
amount to seventeen dollars in all. Said he : 'It is probably 
cheap enough ; but I want to say that, cheap as it is, I have 
not the money to pay. But if you will credit me until 
Christmas, and my experiment here as a lawyer is a success, 
I will pay you then. If I fail in that I will probably never 
pay you at all.' The tone of his voice was so melancholy 
that I felt for him. I looked up at him and I thought 
then, as I think now, that I never saw so gloomy and mel- 
ancholy a face in my life. I said to him, 'So small a debt 
seems to affect you so deeply, I think I can suggest a plan 
by which you will be able to attain your end without 
incurring any debt. I have a very large room and a very 
large double bed in it, which you are perfectly welcome 
to share with me if you choose.' 'Where is you room?' he 
asked. 'Upstairs,' said I, pointing to the stairs leading 
from the store to my room. Without saying a word he 
took his saddlebags on his arm, went upstairs, set them 


down on the floor, came down again, and with a face 
beaming with pleasure and smiles, exclaimed, 'Well, Speed, 
I'm moved.' " 

William Butler, who was prominent in the removal of 
the capital from Vandalia to Springfield, took no little 
interest in Lincoln, while a member of the Legislature. 
After his removal to Springfield, Lincoln boarded at But- 
ler's house for several years. He became warmly attached 
to the family, and it is probable the matter of pay never 
entered Butler's mind. He was not only able but willing 
to befriend the young lawyer in this and many other ways. 

Stephen T. Logan was judge of the Circuit Court, and 
Stephen A. Douglas was prosecuting attorney. Among 
the attorneys we find many promising spirits. Edward D. 
Baker, John T. Stuart, Cyrus Walker, Samuel H. Treat, 
Jesse B. Thomas, George Forquer, Dan Stone, Ninian 
W. Edwards, John J. Hardin, Schuyler Strong, A. T. 
Bledsoe, and Josiah Lamborn — a galaxy of names, each 
destined to shed more or less lustre on the history of the 
State. While I am inclined to believe that Lincoln did 
not, after entering Stuart's office, do as much deep and 
assiduous studying as people generally credit him with, 
yet I am confident he absorbed not a little learning by 
contact with the great minds who thronged about the courts 
and State Capitol. The books of Stuart and Lincoln, dur- 
ing 1837, show a practice more extensive than lucrative, 
for while they received a number of fees, only two or three 
of them reached fifty dollars ; and one of these has a credit 
of : "Coat to Stuart, $15.00," showing that they were com- 
pelled, now and then, even to "trade out" their earnings. 
The litigation was as limited in importance as in extent. 
There were no great corporations, as in this progressive 
day, retaining for counsel the brains of the bar in every 
county seat, but the greatest as well as the least had to 
join the general scramble for practice. The court con- 
sumed as much time deciding who had committed an as- 
sault or a trespass on a neighbor's ground, as it spent in 
the solution of questions arising on contracts, or unravel- 
ing similar legal complications. Lawyers depended for 


success, not on their knowledge of the law or their famili- 
arity with its underlying principles, but placed their reliance 
rather on their frontier oratory and the influence of their 
personal bearing before the jury. 

Lincoln made Speed's store headquarters. There poli- 
tics, religion, and all other subjects were discussed. There 
also public sentiment was made. The store had a large 
fireplace in the rear, and around it the lights of the town 
collected every evening. As the sparks flew from the 
crackling logs, another and more brilliant fire flashed when 
these great minds came into collision. Here were wont to 
gather Lincoln, Douglas, Baker, Calhoun, Browning, Lam- 
born, Jesse B. Thomas and others. Only those who were 
present and listened to these embryonic statesmen and 
budding orators will ever be able to recall their brilliant 
thoughts and appreciate their youthful enthusiasm. In 
the fall and winter of 1837, while I was attending college 
at Jacksonville, the persecution and death of Elijah P. 
Lovejoy at Alton took place. This cruel and uncalled for 
murder had aroused the anti-slavery sentiment everywhere. 
It penetrated the college, and both faculty and students 
were loud and unrestrained in their denunciation of the 
crime. My father, who was thoroughly pro-slavery in his 
ideas, believing that the college was too strongly permeated 
with the virus of Abolitionism, forced me to withdraw 
from the institution and return home. But it was too late. 
My soul had absorbed too much of what my father be- 
lieved was rank poison. The murder of Lovejoy filled 
me with more desperation than the slave scene in New 
Orleans did Lincoln ; for while he believed in non-interfer- 
ence with slavery, so long as the Constitution permitted 
and authorized its existence, I, although acting nominally 
with the Whig party up to 1853, struck out for Aboli- 
tionism pure and simple. 

On my return to Springfield from college, I hired to 
Joshua F. Speed as clerk in his store. My salary, seven 
hundred dollars per annum, was considered good pay then. 
Speed, Lincoln, Charles R. Hurst, and I slept in the room 
upstairs over the store. I had worked for Speed before 


going to college, and after hiring to him this time again, 
continued in his employ for several years. The young 
men who congregated about the store formed a society for 
the encouragement of debate and literary efforts. Some- 
times we would meet in a lawyer's office and often in 
Speed's room. Besides the debates, poems and other orig- 
inal productions were read. Unfortunately we ruled out 
the ladies. I am free to admit I would not encourage a 
similar thing nowadays; but in that early day the young 
men had not the comforts of books and newspapers which 
are within the reach of every boy now. Some allowance 
therefore should be made for us. I have forgotten the 
name of the society — if it had any — and can only recall a 
few of its leading spirits. Lincoln, James Matheny, 
Noah Rickard, Evan Butler, Milton Hay, and Newton 
Francis were members. I joined also. Matheny was 
secretary. We were favored with all sorts of literary 
productions. Lincoln himself entertained us with a few 
lines of rhyme intended to illustrate some weakness in 
woman — her frailty, perhaps. Matheny was able several 
years ago to repeat the one stanza which follows, and that 
was all he could recall — perhaps it was best he could 
remember no more : 

"Whatever spiteful fools may say, 
Each jealous, ranting yelper, 
No woman ever went astray 
Without a man to help her." 

Matheny also related the following incident: "Near 
Hoffman's Row, where the courts were held in 1839-40, 
lived a shoemaker who frequently would get drunk and 
invariably whipped his wife. Lincoln, hearing of this, 
told the man if he ever repeated it he would thrash him 
soundly himself. Meanwhile he told Evan Butler, Noah 
Rickard, and myself of it, and we decided if the offense 
occurred again to join with Lincoln in suppressing it. In 
due course of time we heard of it. We dragged the offen- 
der up to the courthouse, stripped him of his shirt, and 
tied him to a post or pump which stood over the well in 


the yard back of the building. Then we sent for his wife 
and arming her with a good limb bade her 'light in'. We 
sat on our haunches and watched the performance. The 
wife did her work lustily and well. When we thought the 
culprit had had enough Lincoln released him; we helped 
him on with his shirt and he crept sorrowfully homeward. 
Of course he threatened vengeance, but still we heard no 
further reports of wife-whipping from him." 2 

Besides this organization we had a society in Springfield, 
which contained and commanded all the culture and talent 
of the place. Unlike the other one its meetings were public, 
and reflected great credit on the community. We called it 
the "Young Men's Lyceum." Late in 1837, Lincoln de- 
livered before the society a carefully prepared address on 
the "Perpetuation of Our Free Institutions." The speech 
was brought out by the burning in St. Louis a few weeks 
before, by a mob, of a negro. Lincoln took this incident 
as a sort of text for his remarks. James Matheny was 
appointed by the Lyceum to request of Lincoln a copy of 
his speech and see to its publication. 3 The inspiration and 
and burthen of it was law and order. It has been printed 
in full so often and is always to be found in the list of 
Lincoln's public speeches, that I presume I need not re- 
produce it here. It was highly sophomoric in character and 
abounded in striking and lofty metaphor. In point of 
rhetorical effort it excels anything he ever afterward at- 
tempted. Probably it was the thing people expect from a 
young man of twenty-eight. The address was published in 
the Sangamon Journal and created for the young orator 
a reputation which soon extended beyond the limits of the 
locality in which he lived. As illustrative of his style of 
oratory, I beg to introduce the concluding paragraph of 
the address. Having characterized the surviving soldiers 
of the Revolution as "living histories," he closes with this 
thrilling flourish : "But these histories are gone. They can 
be read no more forever. They were a fortress of 

2 Original footnote. 

3 This sentence and the two which precede it Herndon used as a 
footnote. The speech was made on January 27, 1838. 


strength; but what invading foeman never could do, the 
silent artillery of time has — the levelling of its walls. They 
are gone. They were a forest of giant oaks ; but the all- 
resistless hurricane has swept over them, and left only here 
and there a lonely trunk, despoiled of its verdure, shorn 
of its foliage, unshading and unshaded, to murmur in a 
few more gentle breezes, and to combat with its mutilated 
limbs a few more rude storms, then to sink and be no 
more. They were pillars of the temple of liberty, and now 
that they have crumbled away, that temple must fall, unless 
we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars 
hewn from the same solid quarry of sober reason. Passion 
has helped us, but can do so no more. It will in future be 
our enemy. Reason — cold, calculating, unimpassioned rea- 
son — must furnish all the materials for our further sup- 
port and defense. Let these materials be moulded into 
general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a 
reverence for the Constitution and the laws. . . . Upon 
these let the proud fabric of freedom rest as the rock of 
its basis, and as truly as has been said of the only greater 
institution, 'The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' ' 

In time Lincoln's style changed : he became more elo- 
quent but with less gaudy ornamentation. He grew in 
oratorical power, dropping gadually the alliteration and 
rosy metaphor of youth, until he was able at last to deliver 
that grandest of all orations — the Gettysburg address. 

One evening, while the usual throng of loungers sur- 
rounded the inviting fireplace in Speed's store, the con- 
versation turned on political matters. The disputants 
waxed warm and acrimonious as the discussion proceeded. 
Business being over for the day, I strolled back and seat- 
ing myself on a keg listened with eager interest to the 
battle going on among these would-be statesmen. Douglas, 
I recollect, was leading on the Democratic side. He had 
already learned the art of dodging in debate, but still he 
was subtle, fiery, and impetuous. He charged the Whigs 
with every blunder and political crime he could imagine. 
No vulnerable spot seemed to have escaped him. At last, 
with great vehemence, he sprang up and abruptly made a 


challenge to those who differed with him to discuss the 
whole matter publicly, remarking that, "This store is no 
place to talk politics." In answer to Douglas's challenge 
the contest was entered into. It took place in the Presby- 
terian Church. Douglas, Calhoun, Lamborn, and Thomas 
represented the Democrats ; and Logan, Baker, Browning, 
and Lincoln, in the order named, presented the Whig side 
of the question. One evening was given to each man, and 
it therefore required over a week to complete the tourna- 
ment. Lincoln occupied the last evening, and although the 
people by that time had necessarily grown a little tired of the 
monotony and well-worn repetition, yet Lincoln's manner 
of presenting his thoughts and answering his Democratic 
opponents excited renewed interest. So deep was the im- 
pression he created that he was asked to furnish his speech 
to the Sangamon Journal for publication and it afterwards 
appeared in the columns of that organ. 

Meanwhile Mr. Lincoln had attended one special ses- 
sion of the Legislature in July, 1837. The session was 
called to take some action with regard to the financial con- 
dition of the State. The Bank of the United States and 
the New York and Philadelphia Banks had suspended 
specie payments. This action had precipitated general 
ruin among business men and interests over the entire 
country. The called session of the Legislature was in- 
tended to save the Illinois banks from impending dissolu- 
tion. Lincoln retained his position on the Committee on 
Finance, and had lost none of his enthusiasm over the 
glorious prospects of internal improvements. The Legis- 
lature, instead of abridging, only extended the already 
colossal proportions of the great system. In this they 
paid no heed to the governor, whose head seems to have 
been significantly clear on the folly of the enterprise. 

[It is evident that the Legislature's refusal to abandon 
the system of internal improvements met with the ap- 
proval of Lincoln's constituents. "On Tuesday last," said 
the Sangamon Journal of July 29, "several members of the 
State Legislature and other distinguished men passing 
through our town, it occurred to some of our citizens that 


an invitation to a public dinner here, would be but paying 
them a proper tribute of respect for a faithful perform- 
ance of their official duties." Accordingly, at two o'clock 
that afternoon some seventy men sat down to a "sumptuous 
dinner" at the Rural Hotel. 

After the meal had been concluded, twenty-two regular 
toasts were offered and received "with great glee." Among 
them were "Springfield — the magnificence of the Capitol, 
when completed, will make her the pride, as the hospitality 
of her citizens has already made her the favorite of our 
State;" and "The 'Long Nine of Old Sangamon' — Well 
done good and faithful servants." Twelve or fifteen vol- 
unteers followed, among them both Lincoln and Douglas. 
The former gave, "All our friends — They are too nu- 
merous to be now named individually, while there is no 
one of them who is not too dear to be forgotten or neg- 
lected;" while the latter proposed, "The last winter's leg- 
islation — may its results prove no less beneficial to the 
whole State than they have to our town." 

Lincoln came in for further honors at a large banquet 
given at Athens a few days later to the Sangamon delega- 
tion. There he was toasted twice, once in the words, 
"He has fulfilled the expectations of his friends and dis- 
appointed the hopes of his enemies," and again as "One of 
nature's noblemen."] 

In 1838 Mr. Lincoln was again elected to the Legisla- 
ture. At this session, as the nominee of the Whig party, 
he received thirty-eight votes for Speaker. Wm. L. D. 
Ewing, his successful competitor, the Democratic candidate, 
received forty-three votes, and was elected. Besides re- 
taining his place on the Finance Committee, Lincoln was 
assigned to the Committee on Counties. The enthusiasm 
and zeal of the friends of internal improvements began 
to flag now in view of the fact that the bonds issued were 
beginning to find their true level in point of value. Lin- 
coln, together with others of kindred views, tried to bol- 
ster the "system" up ; but soon the discouraging fact 
became apparent that no more money could be obtained, 
and the Legislature began to descant on what part of the 


debt was lawful and what unlawful. Repudiation seemed 
not far off. Mr. Lincoln despaired now of ever becoming 
the "DeWitt Clinton of Illinois." We find him admitting 
"his share of the responsibility in the present crisis," and 
finally concluding that he was "no financier" after all. 

[During the session of 1838 Lincoln took his place as 
the undisputed leader of his party in the House. Under 
his leadership the Whigs were active in support of the 
two State Banks, and with the backing of the friends of 
Springfield, he succeeded in thwarting several serious at- 
tempts to repeal the law which made that town the cap- 
ital. Of most interest, however, was a plan he formulated 
for the financial relief of the State. He proposed that the 
Federal Government sell to Illinois at twenty-five cents per 
acre all the public land within its limits, and that the 
State should then resell the land at the minimum govern- 
ment price of $1.25 per acre. Since there were about 
twenty million acres of government land in Illinois, the 
proceeds of the transaction would be more than sufficient 
to carry the state debt and retire it in a short time. This 
proposal was put in the form of resolutions in which both 
the House and Senate concurred, but, needless to say, 
nothing came of it. 

In the autumn of 1839 the financial condition of the 
State became so alarming that Governor Carlin called a 
special session of the General Assembly. On December 
9 it met in Springfield for the first time. Since the new 
State House was not yet finished, both branches of the 
Legislature sat in churches. Although the session lasted 
several weeks, little was accomplished. Laws were passed 
reviving the recently forfeited charter of the State Bank 
at Springfield, forwarding work on the Illinois and Mich- 
igan Canal, and providing for the settlement of the in- 
ternal improvement debt. The system of public works, 
however, was not yet abandoned, and Lincoln was one 
of the small majority which successfully resisted all at- 
tempts to repeal it.] 

No sooner had the Legislature adjourned than Lincoln 


decided — if he had not already so determined — to run for 
the same place again. He probably wanted it for a vindi- 
cation. He was pursued now more fiercely than ever, 
and he was better able to endure the vilification of a po- 
litical campaign than when he first offered himself to the 
voters in New Salem. 

Among the Democratic orators who stumped the county 
at this time was one Taylor — commonly known as Colonel 
Dick Taylor. He was a showy, bombastic man, with a 
weakness for fine clothes and other personal adornments. 
Frequently he was pitted against Lincoln, and indulged in 
many bitter flings at the lordly ways and aristocratic pre- 
tensions of the Whigs. He had a way of appealing to "his 
horny-handed neighbors," and resorted to many other art- 
ful tricks of a demagogue. When he was one day ex- 
patiating in his accustomed style, Lincoln, in a spirit of 
mischief and, as he expressed it, "to take the wind out of 
his sails," slipped up to the speaker's side, and catching 
his vest by the lower edge gave it a sharp pull. The latter 
instantly opened and revealed to his astonished hearers 
a ruffled shirt-front glittering with watch-chain, seals, and 
other golden jewels. The effect was startling. The speaker 
stood confused and dumbfounded, while the audience 
roared with laughter. When it came Lincoln's turn to 
answer he covered the gallant colonel over in this style: 
"While Colonel Taylor was making these charges against 
the Whigs over the country, riding in fine carriages, wear- 
ing ruffled shirts, kid gloves, massive gold watch-chains 
with large gold-seals, and flourishing a heavy gold-headed 
cane, I was a poor boy, hired on a flat-boat at eight dollars 
a month, and had only one pair of breeches to my back, 
and thry were buckskin. Now if you know the nature of 
buckskin when wet and dried by the sun, it will shrink; 
and my breeches kept shrinking until they left several 
inches of my legs bare between the tops of my socks and 
the lower part of my breeches ; and whilst I was grow- 
ing taller they were becoming shorter, and so much tighter 
that they left a blue streak around my legs that can be 


seen to this day. If you call this aristocracy I plead guilty 
to the charge." * 

It was during this same canvass that Lincoln by his 
manly interference protected his friend E. D. Baker from 
the anger of an infuriated crowd. Baker was a brilliant 
and effective speaker, and quite as full too of courage as 
invective. He was addressing a crowd in the court room, 
which was immediately underneath Stuart and Lincoln's 
office. Just above the platform on which the speaker 
stood was a trap door in the floor, which opened into Lin- 
coln's office. Lincoln at the time, as was often his habit, 
was lying on the floor looking down through the door 
at the speaker. I was in the body of the crowd. Baker 
was hot-headed and impulsive, but brave as a lion. Grow- 
ing warm in his arraignment of the Democratic party, he 
charged that "wherever there was a land office there was 
a Democratic newspaper to defend its corruptions." This 
angered the brother of the editor of our town paper, who 
was present, and who cried out, "Pull him down," at the 
same time advancing from the crowd as if to perform the 
task himself. Baker, his face pale with excitement, squared 
himself for resistance. A shuffling of feet, a forward 
movement of the crowd, and great confusion followed. 
Just then a long pair of legs was seen dangling from 
the aperture above, and instantly the figure of Lincoln 
dropped on the platform. Motioning with his hands for 
silence and not succeeding, he seized a stone water-pitcher 
standing near by, threatening to break it over the head 
of the first man who laid hands on Baker. "Hold on, gen- 
tlemen," he shouted, "this is the land of free speech. Mr. 
Baker has a right to speak and ought to be heard. I am 
here to protect him, and no man shall take him from this 
stand if I can prevent it." His interference had the de- 
sired effect. Quiet was soon restored, and the valiant 
Baker was allowed to proceed. I was in the back part of 
the crowd that night, and an enthusiastic Baker man my- 
self. I knew he was a brave man, and even if Lincoln 
4 Ms. statement of Ninian W. Edwards to Herndon. 


had not interposed, I felt sure he wouldn't have been 
pulled from the platform without a bitter struggle. 

This canvass — 1840 — was Mr. Lincoln's last campaign 
for the Legislature. Feeling that he had had enough honor 
out of the office he probably aspired for a place of more 
distinction. Jesse B. Thomas, one of the men who had 
represented the Democratic side in the great debate in the 
Presbyterian Church, in a speech at the courthouse dur- 
ing this campaign, indulged in some fun at the expense 
of the "Long Nine," reflecting somewhat more on Lincoln 
than the rest. The latter was not present, but being ap- 
prised by his friends of what had been said, hastened to 
the meeting, and soon after Thomas closed, stepped upon 
the platform and responded. The substance of his speech 
on this occasion was not so memorable as the manner of 
its delivery. He felt the sting of Thomas's allusions, and 
for the first time, on the stump or in public, resorted to 
mimicry for effect. In this, as will be seen later along, 
he was without a rival. He imitated Thomas in gesture 
and voice, at times caricaturing his walk and the very mo- 
tion of his body. Thomas, like everybody else, had some 
peculiarities of expression and gesture, and these Lincoln 
succeeded in rendering more prominent than ever. The 
crowd yelled and cheered as he continued. Encouraged 
by these demonstrations, the ludicrous features of the 
speaker's performance gave way to intense and scathing 
ridicule. Thomas, who was obliged to sit near by and 
endure the pain of this unique ordeal, was ordinarily sen- 
sitive; but the exhibition goaded him to desperation. He 
was so thoroughly wrought up with suppressed emotion 
that he actually gave way to tears. I was not a witness 
of this scene, but the next day it was the talk of the town, 
and for years afterwards it was called the "skinning" of 
Thomas. Speed was there, so were A. Y. Ellis, Ninian 
W. Edwards, and David Davis, who was just then com- 
ing into prominence. The whole thing was so unlike 
Lincoln, it was not soon forgotten either by his friends 
or enemies. I heard him afterwards say that the recol- 
lection of his conduct that evening filled him with the 


deepest chagrin. He felt that he had gone too far, and to 
rid his good-nature of a load, hunted up Thomas and made 
ample apology. The incident and its sequel proved that 
Lincoln could not only be vindictive but manly as well. 

He was selected as an Elector on the Harrison ticket for 
President in 1840, and as such stumped over a good por- 
tion of the State. In debate he frequently met Douglas, 
who had already become the standard-bearer and expon- 
ent of Democratic principles. These joint meetings were 
spirited affairs sometimes ; but at no time did he find the 
Little Giant averse to a conflict. "He was very sensitive," 
relates Joseph Gillespie, one of his colleagues on the 
stump, "where he thought he had failed to meet the ex- 
pectations of his friends. I remember a case. He was 
pitted by the Whigs in 1840 to debate with Mr. Douglas, 
the Democratic champion. Lincoln did not come up to 
the requirements of the occasion. He was conscious of 
his failure, and I never saw any man so much distressed. 
He begged to be permitted to try it again, and was re- 
luctantly indulged; and in the next effort he transcended 
our highest expectations. I never heard and never expect 
to hear such a triumphant vindication as he then gave of 
Whig measures or policy. He never after, to my knowl- 
edge, fell below himself." 

The campaign ended in his election to the Legislature. 
He was again the caucus nominee of the Whigs for 
Speaker, receiving thirty-six votes ; but his former an- 
tagonist, William L. D. Ewing, was elected by a majority 
of ten votes over him. The proceedings of, and laws 
enacted by, this Legislature are so much a matter of his- 
tory and so generally known that it seems a needless task 
on my part to enter into details. It is proper to note, 
however, in passing, that Mr. Lincoln was neither prompt 
nor constant in his attendance during the session. He 
had been to a certain extent "upset" by another love af- 
fair, the particulars of which must be assigned to a fu- 
ture chapter. 

[The session of 1840-41 was a momentous one. De- 
cember 7, 1840 was the date on which the Legislature nor- 


mally would have convened, but Governor Carlin sum- 
moned it to meet two weeks before that date in order that 
some provision for the payment of interest on the state 
debt, due January 1, 1841, might be made. The internal 
improvement system, in the adoption of which Lincoln 
had played such a prominent part, had collapsed, with 
the result that Illinois was left with an enormous debt 
and an empty treasury. After much oratory on the sub- 
ject a brief law was passed, virtually abandoning the sys- 
tem and legalizing the hypothecation of state bonds to raise 
funds for the next interest payment. By the same method 
the payment of interest on July 1, 1841, was met, but for 
several years thereafter Illinois made no effort to meet 
her obligations. 

The close of the preliminary session of 1840 was marked 
by a ludicrous incident in which Lincoln was the principal 
actor. During the last session the Legislature had legalized 
the suspension of specie payment by the state banks until 
the end of the next session. If the special session were to 
end on December 5, payment would have to be resumed 
at once. Knowing that the banks, particularly the one 
at Springfield, wanted a longer period of suspension, Lin- 
coln and the Whigs determined to prevent adjournment, 
so that the special and regular sessions would merge into 
one, and the banks be relieved of the necessity of specie 
payment until the close of the regular session in the spring 
of 1841. 

Outnumbered as they were in the House, the Whigs 
determined to prevent a quorum on the afternoon of the 
5th, so that the House could not concur in the resolution 
of adjournment which the Senate had already passed. 
Accordingly, only Lincoln and a few trusted friends ap- 
peared. The Democrats discovered the ruse, and sent 
the sergeant at arms to bring in the missing members. He 
returned without the necessary number, whereupon the 
doors were locked to prevent the escape of the Whigs al- 
ready present. However, while Lincoln and his friends 
were enjoying the discomfiture of their angry opponents, 
several sick Democrats appeared and a quorum was un- 


expectedly announced. Caught unawares, the Whigs lost 
their heads and recorded their votes, and then attempted 
to escape. Finding the doors locked, Lincoln, Joseph Gil- 
lespie and one or two others raised a window and jumped 
out — too late, of course, to have any effect other than to 
provide the Democrats with capital material for ridicule. 
Since Lincoln's legs "reached nearly from the window to 
the ground," asked the State Register, might it not be a 
good idea to raise the State House "one story higher, in 
order to have the House sit in the third story! so as to 
prevent members from jumping out of the windows?" 
Then "Mr. Lincoln will in the future have to climb down 
the spout." 

During the regular session occurred a party battle of 
the utmost importance. Aroused by a decision manifestly 
partisan, and by the expectation of another soon to fol- 
low, the Democrats determined to destroy the Whig ma- 
jority on the State Supreme Court. This was to be done 
by the enlargement of the Court from four to nine mem- 
bers, thus substituting a Democratic preponderance of six 
to three for the existing three to one of the Whigs. Party 
lines were tightly drawn, and the Whigs fought so stren- 
uously that the measure was passed by the slim majority 
of two votes. Yet in this important contest Lincoln took 
no part other than to record his vote with his party 



second year and still unmarried. "I have come to the 
conclusion," he suggests in a facetious letter, two years 
before, "never again to think of marrying." But mean- 
while he had seen more of the world. The State Capital 
had been removed to Springfield, and he soon observed 
the power and influence one can exert with high family 
and social surroundings to draw upon. The sober truth 
is that Lincoln was inordinately ambitious. He had al- 
ready succeeded in obtaining no inconsiderable political 
recognition, and numbered among his party friends men 
of wealth and reputation; but he himself was poor, be- 
sides lacking the graces and ease of bearing obtained 
through mingling in polite society — in fact, to use the ex- 
pressive language of Mary Owens, he was "deficient in 
those little links which make up the chain of woman's 
happiness.^" Conscious, therefore, of his humble rank in 
the social scale, how natural that he should seek by mar- 
riage in an influential family to establish strong connec- 
tions and at the same time foster his political fortunes ! 
This may seem an audacious thing to insinuate, but on 
no other basis can we reconcile the strange course of his 
courtship and the tempestuous chapters in his married 
life. It is a curious history, and the facts, long chained 
down, are gradually coming to the surface. When all is at 
last known, the world I believe will divide its censure be- 
tween Lincoln and his wife. 

Mary Todd, who afterwards became the wife of Mr. 
Lincoln, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, December 13, 
1818. "My mother," related Mrs. Lincoln to me in 1865, 


"died when I was still young. I was educated by Madame 
Mentelle, a lady who lived opposite Mr. Clay's, and who 
was an accomplished French scholar. Our conversation 
at school was carried on entirely in French — in fact we 
were allowed to speak nothing- else. I finished my edu- 
cation at Mrs. Ward's Academy, an institution to which 
many people from the North sent their daughters. In 
1837 I visited Springfield, Illinois, remaining three months. 
I returned to Kentucky, remaining till 1839, when I again 
set out for Illinois, which State finally became my home." 

The paternal grandfather of Mary Todd, General Levi 
Todd, was born in 1756, was educated in Virginia, and 
studied law in the office of General Lewis of that State. 
He emigrated to Kentucky, was a lieutenant in the cam- 
paigns conducted by General George Rogers Clark against 
the Indians, and commanded a battalion in the battle of 
Blue Licks, August 1782, where his brother, John Todd, 
was killed. He succeeded Daniel Boone in command of 
the militia, ranking as major-general, and was one of the 
first settlers in Lexington, Ky. February 25, 1779, he 
married Miss Jane Briggs. The seventh child of this 
union, born February 25, 1791, was Robert S. Todd, the 
father of Mrs. Lincoln. On her maternal side Mrs. Lin- 
coln was highly connected. Her great-grandfather, Gen- 
eral Andrew Porter, was in the war of the Revolution. He 
succeeded Peter Muhlenberg as major-general of the Penn- 
sylvania militia. Her great uncles, George B. Porter, 
who was governor of Michigan, James Madison Porter, 
secretary of the navy under President Tyler, and David 
R. Porter, governor of Pennsylvania, were men of abil- 
ity and distinction. Her mother, Anne Eliza Parker, was 
a cousin of her father, Robert S. Todd. The latter had 
served in both houses of the Kentucky Legislature, and 
for over twenty years was president of the Bank of Ken- 
tucky of Lexington. He died July 16, 1849. 

To a young lady in whose veins coursed the blood that 
had come down from this long and distinguished an- 
cestral line, who could even go back in the genealogical 
chart to the sixth century, Lincoln, the child of Nancy 


Hanks, whose descent was dimmed by the shadow of 
tradition, was finally united in marriage. 

When Mary Todd came to her sister's house in Spring- 
field in 1839, she was in her twenty-first year. She was a 
young woman of strong, passionate nature and quick 
temper, and had ''left her home in Kentucky to avoid living 
under the same roof with a stepmother." * She came to live 
with her oldest sister, Elizabeth, who was the wife of 
Lincoln's colleague in the Legislature, Ninian W. Edwards. 
She had two other sisters, Frances, married to Dr. Willian 
Wallace, and Anne, who afterwards became the wife of 
C. M. Smith, a prominent and wealthy merchant. They 
all resided in Springfield. She was of the average height, 
weighing when I first saw her about a hundred and thirty 
pounds. She was rather compactly built, had a well 
rounded face, rich dark-brown hair, and bluish-gray eyes. 
In her bearing she was proud, but handsome and vivacious. 
Her education had been in no wise defective ; she was a 
good conversationalist, using with equal fluency the French 
and English languages. When she used a pen, its point 
was sure to be sharp, and she wrote with wit and ability. 
She not only had a quick intellect but an intuitive judg- 
ment of men and their motives. Ordinarily she was 
affable and even charming in her manners ; but when 
offended or antagonized, her agreeable qualities instantly 
disappeared beneath a wave of stinging satire or sarcastic 
bitterness, and her entire better nature was submerged. In 
her figure and physical proportions, in education, bearing, 
temperament, history — in everything she was the exact 
reverse of Lincoln. 

On her return to Springfield she immediately entered 
society, and soon became one of the belles, leading the 
young men of the town a merry dance. She was a very 
shrewd observer, and discreetly and without apparent effort 
kept back all the unattractive elements in her unfortunate 
organization. Her trenchant wit, affability, and candor 
pleased the young men not less than her culture and varied 

1 Statement of Mrs. Ninian W. Edwards (Elizabeth Todd) to 
Herndon, August 3, 1887. 


accomplishments impressed the older ones with whom she 
came in contact. The first time I met her was at a dance 
at the residence of Colonel Robert Allen, a gentleman men- 
tioned in the preceding chapter. I engaged her for a waltz, 
and as we glided through it I fancied I never before had 
danced with a young lady who moved with such grace and 
ease. A few moments later, as we were promenading 
through the hall, I thought to compliment her graceful 
dancing by telling her that while I was conscious of my 
own awkward movements, she seemed to glide through 
the waltz with the ease of a serpent. The strange com- 
parison was as unfortunate as it was hideous. I saw it in 
an instant, but too late to recall it. She halted for a mo- 
ment, drew back, and her eyes flashed as she retorted : 
"Mr. Herndon, comparison to a serpent is rather severe 
irony, especially to a newcomer." 

Through the influence of Joshua F. Speed, who was a 
warm friend of the Edwardses, Lincoln was led to call on 
Miss Todd. He was charmed with her wit and beauty, 
no less than by her excellent social qualities and pro- 
found knowledge of the strong and weak points in indi- 
vidual character. One visit succeeded another. It was the 
old story. Lincoln had again fallen in love. "I have often 
happened in the room where they were sitting," relates 
Mrs. Edwards, describing this courtship, "and Mary in- 
variably led the conversation. Mr. Lincoln would sit at her 
side and listen. He scarcely said a word, but gazed on 
her as if irresistibly drawn towards her by some superior 
and unseen power. He could not maintain himself in a 
continued conversation with a lady reared as Mary was. 
He was not educated and equipped mentally to make him- 
self either interesting or attractive to the ladies. He was a 
good, honest, and sincere young man whose rugged, manly 
qualities I admired; but to me he somehow seemed ill- 
constituted by nature and education to please such a woman 
as my sister. Mary was quick, gay, and in the social world 
somewhat brilliant. She loved show and power, and was 
the most ambitious woman I ever knew. She used to 
contend when a girl, to her friends in Kentucky, that she 
was destined to marry a President. I have heard her say 


that myself, and after mingling in society in Springfield 
she repeated the seemingly absurd and idle boast. Al- 
though Mr. Lincoln seemed to be attached to Mary, and 
fascinated by her wit and sagacity, yet I soon began to 
doubt whether they could always be so congenial. In a 
short time I told Mary my impression that they were not 
suited, or, as some persons who believe matches are made 
in heaven would say, not intended for each other." 

But Mrs. Edwards' advice was seed sown on rocky soil. 
The courtship ran on smoothly to the point of engagement, 
when a new and disturbing element loomed up ahead in 
their paths. It was no less than the dashing and handsome 
Stephen A. Douglas, who now appeared on the scene in 
the guise of a rival. As a society man Douglas was in- 
finitely more accomplished, more attractive and influential 
than Lincoln, and that he should supplant the latter in the 
affections of the proud and aristocratic Miss Todd is not 
to be marveled at. He was unremitting in his attentions 
to the lady, promenaded the streets arm-in-arm with her — 
frequently passing Lincoln — and in every way made plain 
his intention to become the latter's rival. There are those 
who believe this warm reciprocation of young Douglas' 
affection was a mere flirtation on Mary Todd's part, in- 
tended to spur Lincoln up, to make him more demonstra- 
tive, and manifest his love more positively and with greater 
fervor. But a lady relative who lived with Lincoln and 
his wife for two years after their marriage is authority 
for the statement coming from Mrs. Lincoln herself that 
"she loved Douglas, and but for her promise to marry 
Lincoln would have accepted him." The unfortunate atti- 
tude she felt bound to maintain between these two young 
men ended in a spell of sickness. Douglas, still hopeful, 
was warm in the race, but the lady's physician, — her 
brother-in-law, — Dr. William Wallace, to whom she con- 
fided the real cause of her illness, saw Douglas and in- 
duced him to end his pursuit, 2 which he did with great 

If Miss Todd intended by her flirtation with Douglas 

2 Statement of Mrs. Harriet Chapman to Herndon, November 
8, 1887. 


to test Lincoln's devotion, she committed a grievous error. 
If she believed, because he was ordinarily so undemon- 
strative, that he was without will-power and incapable of 
being aroused, she certainly did not comprehend the man. 
Lincoln began now to feel the sting. Miss Todd's spur 
had certainly operated and with awakening effect. One 
evening Lincoln came into our store and called for his 
warm friend Speed. Together they walked back to the fire- 
place, where Lincoln, drawing from his pocket a letter, 
asked Speed to read it. "The letter," relates Speed, "was 
addressed to Mary Todd, and in it he made a plain state- 
ment of his feelings, telling her that he had thought the 
matter over calmly and with great deliberation, and now 
felt that he did not love her sufficiently to warrant her in 
marrying him. This letter he desired me to deliver. Upon 
my declining to do so he threatened to intrust it to some 
other person's hand. I reminded him that the moment 
he placed the letter in Miss Todd's hand, she would have 
the advantage over him. 'Words are forgotten,' I said, 'mis- 
understood, unnoticed in a private conversation, but once 
put your words in writing and they stand a living and 
eternal monument against you.' Thereupon I threw the 
unfortunate letter in the fire. 'Now,' I continued, 'if you 
have the courage of manhood, go see Mary yourself ; tell 
her, if you do not love her, the facts, and that you will not 
marry her. Be careful not to say too much, and then leave 
at your earliest opportunity.' Thus admonished, he but- 
toned his coat, and with a rather determined look started 
out to perform the serious duty for which I had just given 
him explicit directions." 

That night Speed did not go upstairs to bed with us, but 
under pretense of wanting to read, remained in the store 
below. He was waiting for Lincoln's return. Ten o'clock 
passed, and still the interview with Miss Todd had not 
ended. At length, shortly after eleven, he came stalking in. 
Speed was satisfied, from the length of Lincoln's stay, 
that his directions had not been followed. 

"Well, old fellow, did you do as I told you and as you 
i promised ?" were Speed's first words. 


"Yes, I did," responded Lincoln, thoughtfully, "and 
when I told Mary I did not love her, she burst into tears 
and almost springing from her chair and wringing her 
hands as if in agony, said something about the deceiver 
being himself deceived. " Then he stopped. 

"What else did you say?" inquired Speed, drawing the 
facts from him. 

"To tell you the truth Speed, it was too much for me. 
I found the tears trickling down my own cheeks. I caught 
her in my arms and kissed her." 

"And that's how you broke the engagement," sneered 
Speed. "You not only acted the fool, but your conduct 
was tantamount to a renewal of the engagement, and in 
decency you cannot back down now." 

"Well," drawled Lincoln, "if I am in again, so be it. 
It's done, and I shall abide by it." 3 

Convinced now that Miss Todd regarded the engagement 
ratified, — instead of broken, as her tall suitor had at first 
intended, — Lincoln continued his visits, and things moved 
on smoothly as before. Douglas had dropped out of the 
race, and everything pointed to an early marriage. It 
was probably at this time that Mr. and Mrs. Edwards 
began to doubt the wisdom of the marriage, and now and 
then to intimate the same to the lady; but they went no 
farther in their opposition and placed no obstacle in their 

The time fixed for the marriage was the first day in 
January, 1841. 4 Careful preparations for the happy occa- 
sion were made at the Edwards mansion. The house 
underwent the customary renovation; the furniture was 
properly arranged, the rooms neatly decorated, the supper 
prepared, and the guests invited. The latter assembled on 
the evening in question, and awaited in expectant pleasure 
the interesting ceremony of marriage. The bride, be- 
decked in veil and silken gown, and nervously toying with 
the flowers in her hair, sat in the adjoining room. Nothing 

3 Joshua F. Speed's statement to Herndon, September 17, 1866. 

4 For a discussion of this much-debated episode in Lincoln's 
life see Editor's Preface, pp. xliii-xliv. 


was lacking but the groom. For some strange reason he 
had been delayed. An hour passed, and the guests as well 
as the bride were becoming restless. But they were all 
doomed to disappointment. Another hour passed; mes- 
sengers were sent out over town, and each returning with 
the same report, it became apparent that Lincoln, the prin- 
cipal in this little drama, had purposely failed to appear ! 
The bride, in grief, disappeared to her room ; the wedding 
supper was left untouched ; the guests quietly and won- 
deringly withdrew; the lights in the Edwards mansion 
were blown out, and darkness settled over all for the night. 
What the feelings of a lady as sensitive, passionate, and 
proud as Miss Todd were we can only imagine — no one can 
ever describe them. By daybreak, after persistent search, 
Lincoln's friends found him. Restless, gloomy, miserable, 
desperate, he seemed an object of pity. His friends, Speed 
among the number, fearing a tragic termination, watched 
him closely in their rooms day and night. "Knives and 
razors, and every instrument that could be used for self- 
destruction were removed from his reach." ' Mrs. Ed- 
wards did not hesitate to regard him as insane, and of 
course her sister Mary shared in that view. But the case 
was hardly so desperate. His condition began to improve 
after a few weeks, and a letter written to his partner 
Stuart, on the 23d of January, 1841, three weeks after 
the scene at Edward's house, reveals more perfectly how 
he felt. He says : "I am now the most miserable man 
living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the 
whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face 
on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell; 
I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is 
impossible. I must die or be better, as it appears to me. 
... I fear I shall be unable to attend to any business here, 
and a change of scene might help me. If I could be myself 
I would rather remain at home with Judge Logan. I can 
write no more." 

[A letter to Stuart recommending Dr. A. G. Henry for 
postmaster of Springfield, written three days earlier than 
the one just quoted, throws more light on Lincoln's con- 

5 Joshua F. Speed to Herndon, January 6, 1866. 


dition at this time. "You know I desired Dr. Henry to 
have that place when you left ;" he writes, "I now desire 
it more than ever. I have within the last few days, been 
making a most discreditable exhibition of myself in the 
way of hypochondriasm and thereby got an impression that 
Dr. Henry is necessary to my existence. Unless he gets 
that place he leaves Springfield. . . . My heart is very 
much set upon it. Pardon me for not writing more ; I have 
not sufficient composure to write a long letter." 6 ] 

During all this time the Legislature to which Lincoln 
belonged was in special session, but for a time he was 
unable to attend. 7 Towards the close of the session, how- 
ever, he resumed his seat. He took little if any part in 
the proceedings, made no speeches, and contented himself 
with answers to the monotonous roll-call, and votes on a 
few of the principal measures. After the adjournment of 
the Legislature, his warm friend Speed, who had disposed 
of his interests in Springfield, induced Lincoln to accom- 
pany him to Kentucky. Speed's parents lived in a magni- 
ficent place a few miles from Louisville. Their farm was 
well stocked, and they, in the current phrase, "lived well." 
Thither he was taken, and there amid the quiet surround- 

6 Angle, New Letters and Papers of Lincoln, p. 8-9. 

7 "From the opening of the session November 23, 1840, until 
January 1, 1841, Lincoln, as the Whig floor leader, had been con- 
stant in attendance, having missed but five or six of the many 
roll-calls during those busy five weeks. Beginning with Friday, 
January 1, he showed negligence. He was present but once on 
that day and twice on the next, each time at the close of busi- 
ness. On Monday he did not appear at all, notwithstanding much 
business was transacted, some of particular interest to Lincoln. 
On Tuesday he was again absent except at the opening of the 
House when he voted for the incorporation of Galesburg. On 
Wednesday he voted in the morning and again just before ad- 
journment. On Thursday Lincoln answered one roll-call in the 
forenoon, but did not vote on two important questions imme- 
diately thereafter; during the afternoon no vote was taken. From 
January 13 until January 21, 1841, he answered to his name 
only once. . . . 

"By the beginning of the fourth week in January, 1841, Lincoln 
had so far regained his composure as again to attend regularly 
the sessions of the House, and thereafter we find his vote recorded 
on nearly every roll-call." Beveridge, Abraham Lincoln, I., 
pp. 289-90. 


ings he found the "change of scene" which he told Stuart 
might help him. He was living under the cloud of melan- 
cholia, and sent to the Sangamon Journal a few lines 
under the gloomy title of "Suicide." They were published 
in the paper, and a few years since I hunted over the files, 
and coming across the number containing them, was as- 
tonished to find that some one had cut them out. I have 
always supposed it was done by Lincoln or by some one at 
his instigation. 

Speed's mother was^much impressed with the tall and 
swarthy stranger her son had brought with him. She was 
a God-fearing mother, and besides aiding to lighten his 
spirits, gave him a Bible, advising him to read it and by 
adopting its precepts obtain a release from his troubles 
which no other agency, in her judgment, could bring him. 
"He was much depressed. At first he almost contemplated 
suicide. In the deepest of his depression he said one day 
he had done nothing to make any human being remember 
that he had lived ; and that to connect his name with the 
events transpiring in his day and generation, and so impress 
himself upon them as to link his name with something that 
would redound to the interest of his fellow-men, was what 
he desired to live for." 8 

At the time of Lincoln's visit at the Speed mansion, 
James Speed, a brother of Joshua, and afterwards Attor- 
ney-General in Lincoln's Cabinet, was practicing law in 
Louisville. Lincoln came into his office daily. "He read 
my books," related Mr. Speed in after years ; "talked with 
me about his life, his reading, his studies, his aspirations." 
Mr. Speed discredits the thought that Lincoln was insane 
at the time, although he understood he was saddened and 
melancholy over an unfortunate love affair. The congenial 
associations at the Speed farm, 9 the freedom from un- 

8 Joshua F. Speed to Herndon, February 9, 1866. 

9 It has recently been shown that Lincoln's visit to the Speed 
home was of much shorter duration than has been generally 
supposed. On August 2, 1841, he was still in Springfield, and 
by mid-September he was again in Illinois. Beveridge, I., 318n. 
In the original edition Herndon used the quotation from James 
Speed as a footnote. 


pleasant reminders, the company of his staunch friend, 
and above all the motherly care and delicate attention of 
Mrs. Speed exerted a marked influence over Lincoln. 
He improved gradually, day by day gaining strength and 
confidence in himself, until at last the great cloud lifted 
and passed away. In the fall he and Speed returned to 
Springfield. At this point, as affording us the most reliable 
account of Mr. Lincoln's condition and views, it is proper 
to insert a portion of his correspondence with Mr. Speed. 
For some time Mr. Speed was reluctant to give these letters 
to the world. After some argument, however, he at last 
shared my view that they were properly a matter of his- 
tory, and sent them to me, accompanied by a letter, in 
which he says : 

"I enclose you copies of all the letters of any interest 
from Mr. Lincoln to me. Some explanation may be 
needed that you may rightly understand their import. 
In the winter of 1840 and 1841, he was unhappy about 
his engagement to his wife — not being entirely satisfied that 
his heart was going with his hand. How much he suffered 
then on that account none knew so well as myself ; he dis- 
closed his whole heart to me. 10 

"In the summer of 1841 I became engaged to my wife. 
He was here on a visit when I courted her; and, strange 
to say, something of the same feeling which I regarded 
as so foolish in him took possession of me and kept me 
very unhappy from the time of my engagement until I was 
married. This will explain the deep interest he manifested 
in his letters on my account. 

"One thing is plainly descernible ; if I had not been 
married and happy — far more happy than I ever expected 
to be — he would not have married." 

10 "Lincoln wrote a letter — a long one which he read to me — 
to Dr. Drake of Cincinnati, descriptive of his case. Its date 
would be in December, 1840, or early in January, 1841. I think 
that he must have informed Dr. Drake of his early love for 
Miss Rutledge, as there was a part of the letter which he would 
not read. ... I remember Dr. Drake's reply, which was, that 
he would not undertake to prescribe for him without a personal 
interview." Speed to Herndon, November 30, 1866. 


The first of these letters is one which he gave Speed 
when the latter started on his journey from Illinois to 
Kentucky. It bears no date, but was handed him January 
1, 1842, as Speed has testified, in another letter to me, that 
he left Springfield on that day. It is full of consolation 
and advice how best to conduct himself when the periods 
of gloom which he feels sure will follow come upon his 
friend. "I know," he says, "what the painful point with 
you is at all times when you are unhappy ; it is an appre- 
hension that you do not love her as you should. What 
nonsense ! How came you to court her ? . . . Did you 
court her for her wealth? Why, you say she had none. 
But you say you reasoned yourself into it. What do you 
mean by that? Was it not that you found yourself unable 
to reason yourself out of it? Did you not think, and 
partly form the purpose, of courting her the first time you 
ever saw her or heard of her? What had reason to do 
with it at that early stage ? There was nothing at that time 
for reason to work upon. Whether she was moral, amia- 
ble, sensible, or even of good character, you did not nor 
could then know, except perhaps you might infer the last 
from the company you found her in. . . . Say candidly, 
were not those heavenly black eyes the whole basis of all 
of your reasoning on the subject? After you and I had 
once been at the residence, did you not go and take me 
all the way to Lexington and back for no other purpose 
but to get to see her again on our return on that evening 
to take a trip for that express object ?" 

The next paragraph is significant as affording us an 
idea of how the writer perhaps viewed Miss Todd's flirta- 
tion with Douglas : "What earthly consideration," he 
asks, "would you take to find her scouting and despising 
you and giving herself up to another? But of this you 
need have no apprehension, and therefore you cannot bring 
it home to your feelings." 

February 3, he writes again, acknowledging receipt of 
a letter dated January 25. The object of Speed's affection 
had been ill, and her condition had greatly intensified his 
gloomy spirits. Lincoln proffers his sympathy. "I hope 


and believe," he continues, "that your present anxiety about 
her health and her life must and will forever banish those 
horrid doubts which I know you sometimes felt as to the 
truth of your affection for her. If they can once and 
forever be removed (and I almost feel a presentiment that 
the Almighty has sent your present affliction expressly for 
that object), surely nothing can come in their stead to fill 
their immeasurable measure of misery. . . . 

"It really appears to me that you yourself ought to 
rejoice and not sorrow at this indubitable evidence of your 
undying affection for her. Why, Speed, if you did not 
love her, although you might not wish her death, you would 
most certainly be resigned to it. Perhaps this point is no 
longer a question with you, and my pertinacious dwelling 
upon it is a rude intrusion upon your feelings. If so you 
must pardon me. You know the hell I have suffered on that 
point, and how tender I am upon it. You know I do not 
mean wrong. I have been quite clear of hypo since you 
left, even better than I was along in the fall." 

The next letter, February 13, was written on the eve of 
Speed's marriage. After assurances of his desire to be- 
friend him in everything, he suggests : "But you will al- 
ways hereafter be on ground that I have never occupied, 
and consequently, if advice were needed, I might advise 
wrong. I do fondly hope, however, that you will never 
again need any comfort from abroad ... I incline to 
think it probable that your nerves will fail you occasion- 
ally for awhile; but once you get them firmly guarded 
now, that trouble is over forever. If you went through 
the ceremony calmly or even with sufficient composure 
not to excite alarm in any present, you are safe beyond 
question, and in two or three months, to say the most, 
will be the happiest of men." 

Meanwhile Lincoln had been duly informed of Speed's 
marriage, and on the 25th he responds : 

"Yours of the 16th, announcing that Miss Fanny and 
you are 'no more twain, but one flesh,' reached me this 
morning. I have no way of telling how much happiness I 
wish you both, though I believe you both can conceive it. I 


feel somewhat jealous of both of you now. You will be 
so exclusively concerned for one another that I shall be 
forgotten entirely ... I shall be very lonesome without 
you. How miserably things seem to be arranged in this 
world! If we have no friends we have no pleasure, and 
if we have them we are sure to lose them, and be doubly 
pained by the loss." 

In another letter, written the same day, he says, "I have 
no doubt it is the peculiar misfortune of both you and 
me to dream dreams of Elysium far exceeding all that 
anything earthly can realize. Far short of your dreams as 
you may be, no woman could do more to realize them 
than that same black-eyed Fanny. If you could but con- 
template her through my imagination, it would appear 
ridiculous to you that any one should for a moment think 
of being unhappy with her. My old father used to have 
a saying, that, 'If you make a bad bargain hug it all the 
tighter,' and -it occurs to me that if the bargain just closed 
can possibly be called a bad one it is certainly the most 
pleasant one for applying that maxim to which my fancy 
can by any effort picture." 

Speed having now safely married, Lincoln's mind began 
to turn on things nearer home. His relations with Mary 
Todd were still strained, but reminders of his period of 
gloom the year before began now to bring her again into 
view. In a letter to Speed, March 27, he says : 

"It cannot be told how it thrills me with joy to hear you 
say you are 'far happier than you ever expected to be.' 
That much, I know, is enough. I know you too well to 
suppose your expectations were not at least sometimes 
extravagant, and if the reality exceeds them all, I say, 
'Enough, dear Lord.' I am not going beyond the truth 
when I tell you that the short space it took me to read 
your last letter gave me more pleasure than the total sum 
of all I have enjoyed since that fatal first of January, 1841. 
Since then it seems to me I should have been entirely 
happy but for the never-absent idea that there is one still 
unhappy whom I have contributed to make so. That kills 
my soul. I cannot but reproach myself for ever wishing 


to be happy while she is otherwise. She accompanied a 
large party on the railroad cars to Jacksonville last Mon- 
day, and on her return spoke, so that I heard of it, of 
having enjoyed the trip exceedingly. God be praised for 

The last paragraph of this letter contains a bit of sen- 
timent by Lincoln in acknowledgment of a violet. In the 
margin of the letter which he gave me, Speed made this 
note in pencil : "The violet was sent by my wife, who 
dropped it in the letter as I was in the act of sealing it. 
How beautiful the acknowledgment!" This is the para- 
graph: "The sweet violet you enclosed came safely to 
hand, but it was so dry, and mashed so flat, that it crum- 
bled to dust at the first attempt to handle it. The juice 
that mashed out of it stained a place in the letter, which 
I mean to preserve and cherish for the sake of her who 
procured it to be sent. My renewed good wishes to her." 

Meanwhile the coldness that existed between Lincoln 
and his "Mary" was gradually passing away, and with it 
went all of Lincoln's resolution never to renew the en- 
gagement. In a letter, July 4, he says ; "I must gain con- 
fidence in my own ability to keep my resolves when they 
are made. In that ability I once prided myself as the 
only chief gem of my character; that gem I lost, how and 
where you know too well. I have not regained it; and 
until I do I cannot trust myself in any matter of much 
importance. I believe now that had you understood my 
case at the time as well as I understood yours afterwards, 
by the aid you would have given me I should have sailed 
through clear; but that does not now afford me sufficient 
confidence to begin that or the like of that again ... I 
always was superstitious; I believe God made me one of 
the instruments of bringing Fanny and you together, which 
union I have no doubt he had fore-ordained. Whatever 
he designs he will do for me yet. 'Stand still and see the 
salvation of the Lord,' is my text just now. If, as you 
say, you have told Fanny all, I should have no objection 
to her seeing this letter, but for its reference to our friend 
here; let her seeing it depend upon whether she has ever 


known anything of my affairs ; and if she has not, do not 
let her. I do not think I can come to Kentucky this sea- 
son. I am so poor and make so little headway in the 
world that I drop back in a month of idleness as much as 
I gain in a year's sowing." 

The last letter, and the one which closes this series, was 
written October 5, 1842. In it he simply announced his 
"duel with Shields," and then goes on to "narrate the 
particulars of the duelling business, which still rages in this 
city." This referred to a challenge from the belligerent 
Shields to William Butler, and another from General 
Whitesides to Dr. Merryman. In the latter, Lincoln acted 
as the "friend of Merryman," but in neither case was there 
any encounter, and both ended in smoke. The concluding 
paragraph of this letter is the most singular in the entire 
correspondence. I give it entire without further com- 
ment : 

"But I began this letter not for what I have been 
writing, but to say something on that subject which you 
know to be of such infinite solicitude to me. The immense 
sufferings you endured from the first days of September 
till the middle of February you never tried to conceal 
from me, and I well understood. You have now been 
the husband of a lovely woman nearly eight months. That 
you are happier now than the day you married her, I well 
know, for without, you could not be living. But I have 
your word for it, too, and the returning elasticity of 
spirits which is manifested in your letters. But I want 
to ask you a close question : 'Are you in feeling as well as 
judgment glad you are married as you are?' From any- 
body but me this would be an impudent question not to be 
tolerated, but I know you will pardon it in me. Please 
answer it quickly, as I am impatient to know." 
\mr Lincoln again applied himself to the law. He reentered 

the practice, after the long hiatus of rest, with renewed 
vigor. He permitted the memory of his engagement with 
Mary Todd to trouble him no longer. Their paths had 
diverged, the pain of the separation was over, and the 
whole thing was a history of the past. And so it might 


ever have remained but for the intervention of a very 
shrewd and sagacious lady — one who was capable of 
achieving success anywhere in the ranks of diplomacy. 
This lady was the wife of Simeon Francis, the editor of the 
Sangamon Journal. She was a warm friend of Mary 
Todd and a leader in society. Her husband was warmly 
attached to Lincoln. He ran the Whig organ, and enter- 
tained great admiration for Lincoln's brains and noble 
qualities. The esteem was mutual, and it is no stretch 
of the truth to say that for years Lincoln exercised undis- 
puted control of the columns of the Journal himself. 
Whatever he wrote or had written, went into the editorial 
page without question. Mrs. Francis, sharing her hus- 
band's views of Lincoln's glorious possibilities, and de- 
siring to do Mary Todd a kindly act, determined to bring 
about a reconciliation. She knew that Miss Todd had by 
letter a few days after "that fatal first of January, 1841," 
as Lincoln styled it, released him from the engagement, 
and that since then their relations had been strained, if 
not entirely broken off. As she viewed it, a marriage 
between a man as promising in the political world as Lin- 
coln, and a woman as accomplished and brilliant in society 
as Mary Todd, would certainly add to the attractions of 
Springfield and reflect great credit on those who brought 
the union about. She was a great social entertainer, and 
one day arranged a gathering at her house for the ex- 
press purpose of bringing these two people together. Both 
were invited and both attended ; but neither suspected 
the other's presence. Having arranged things so in- 
geniously and with so much discretion, it was no difficult 
task for the hostess to bring the couple together by a 
warm introduction and the encouraging admonition, "Be 
friends again." Much to the surprise of both they found 
the web woven around them. They entered into the spirit 
of the reconciliation, and found Mrs. Francis' roof an in- 
viting place for many succeeding meetings. A wall reared 
itself between them and the past, and they started again 
under the auspicious omens of another engagement. The 
tact of a woman and the diplomacy of society had accom- 


plished what love had long since despaired of ever doing 
or seeing done. 

The meetings in the parlor of Mrs. Francis' house were 
conducted with no little privacy. At first even Mrs. Ed- 
wards knew nothing of it, but presently it came to her 
ears. "I asked Mary/' said this lady, "why she was so 
secretive about it. She said evasively that after all that 
had occurred, it was best to keep the courtship from all 
eyes and ears. Men and women and the whole world were 
uncertain and slippery, and if misfortune befell the en- 
gagement all knowledge of it would be hidden from the 

It is unnecessary to prolong the account of this strange 
and checkered courtship. The intervention of the affair 
with Shields, which will be detailed in a subsequent chap- 
ter, in no way impeded, if it did not hasten the mar- 
riage. One morning in November, Lincoln hastening to 
the room of his friend James H. Matheny before the 
latter had arisen from bed, informed that he was to be 
married that night, and requested him to attend as best 
man. That same morning Miss Todd called on her friend 
Julia M. Jayne, who afterward married Lyman Trumbull, 
and made a similar request. The Edwardses were noti- 
fied, and made such meagre preparations as were possible 
on so short notice. License was obtained during the day, 
the minister, Charles N. Dresser, was sent for, and in the 
evening of November 4, 1842, "as pale and trembling as 
if being driven to slaughter," Abraham Lincoln was at last 
married to Mary Todd." 

"Marriages in Springfield up to that time," says James 
H. Matheny, 12 "had been rather commonplace affairs. Lin- 

11 In the original edition Herndon printed the following note, 
omitting mention of his authority: "While dressing for the 
wedding in his room at Butler's house, the latter's little boy, 
Speed, seeing Lincoln so handsomely attired, in boyish innocence 
asked him where he was going? To hell, I suppose,' was Lin- 
coln's reply." 

^Letter to Herndon, August 21, 1888. Originally used as a 


coin's was perhaps the first one ever performed with all 
the requirements of the Episcopal ceremony. A goodly 
number of friends had gathered, and while witnessing the 
ceremony one of the most amusing incidents imaginable 
occurred. No description on paper can do it justice. 
Among those present was Thomas C. Brown, one of the 
judges of the Supreme Court. He was in truth an 'old- 
timer,' and had the virtue of saying just what he thought, 
without regard to place or surroundings. He had been 
on the bench for many years and was not less rough than 
quaint and curious. There was, of course, a perfect hush 
in the room as the ceremony progressed. Brown was 
standing just behind Lincoln. Old Parson Dresser, in 
canonical robes, with much and impressive ceremony re- 
cited the Episcopal service. He handed Lincoln the ring, 
who, placing it on the bride's finger, repeated the church 
formula, 'With this ring I thee endow with all my goods 
and chattels, lands and tenements.' Brown, who had never 
witnessed such a proceeding, was struck with its utter 
absurdity. 'God Almighty! Lincoln,' he ejaculated, loud 
enough to be heard by all, 'the statute fixes all that!' 
This unlooked-for interruption almost upset the old par- 
son ; he had a keen sense of the ridiculous, and for the 
moment it seemed as if he would break down; but pres- 
ently recovering his gravity, he hastily pronounced them 
husband and wife." 

One great trial of his life was now over, and another 
still greater one was yet to come. To me it has always 
seemed plain that Mr. Lincoln married Mary Todd to 
save his honor, and in doing that he sacrificed his domes- 
tic peace. He had searched himself subjectively, intro- 
spectively, thoroughly; he knew he did not love her, but 
he had promised to marry her! The hideous thought 
came up like a nightmare. As the "fatal first of Janu- 
ary, 1841," neared, the clouds around him blackened the 
heavens and his life almost went out with the storm. But 
soon the skies cleared. Friends interposed their aid to 
avert a calamity, and at last he stood face to face with the 


great conflict between honor and domestic peace. He 
chose the former, and with it years of self-torture, sacrifi- 
cial pangs, and the loss forever of a happy home. 

With Miss Todd a different motive, but one equally 
as unfortunate, prompted her adherence to the union. 
To marry Lincoln meant not a life of luxury and ease, 
for Lincoln was not a man to accumulate wealth; but in 
him she saw position in society, prominence in the world, 
and the grandest social distinction. By that means her 
ambition would be satisfied. Until that fatal New Year's 
day in 1841 she may have loved him, but his action on 
that occasion forfeited her affection. He had crushed her 
proud, womanly spirit. She felt degraded in the eyes of 
the world. Love fled at the approach of revenge. Some 
writer — it is Junius, I believe — has said that, "Injuries 
may be forgiven and forgotten, but insults admit of no 
compensation ; they degrade the mind in its own self- 
esteem and force it to recover its level by revenge*." 
Whether Mrs. Lincoln really was moved by the spirit of 
revenge or not she acted along the lines of human conduct. 
She led her husband a wild and merry dance. If, in 
time, she became soured at the world it was not without 
provocation, and if in later years she unchained the bit- 
terness of a disappointed and outraged nature, it followed 
as logically as an effect does the cause. 

I have told this sad story as I know and have learned 
it. In rehearsing the varied scenes of the drama, I have 
unearthed a few facts that seem half -buried, perhaps, but 
they were not destined to lay buried deep or long. The 
world will have the truth as long as the name of Lincoln 
is remembered by mankind. 

For many years I had reason to believe that Sarah 
Rickard, who was a sister of Mrs. William Butler, had 
been the recipient of some attentions at the hand of Mr. 
Lincoln. The lady, long since married, is now living in 
a Western State. I applied to her for information re- 
cently, and after some entreaty received this answer in 
her own handwriting: "As an old friend I will answer 

meserve no. 68. A photograph by Mathew B. 
Brady made in Washington on February 23. 


the question propounded to me, though I can scarcely see 
what good it can do history. Mr. Lincoln did make a 
proposal of marriage to me in the summer, or perhaps 
later, in the year 1840. He brought to my attention the 
accounts in the Bible of the patriarch Abraham's marriage 
to Sarah, and used that historical union as an argument 
in his own behalf. My reason for declining his proposal 
was the wide difference in our ages. I was then only 
sixteen, and had given the subject of matrimony but very 
little, if any, thought. I entertained the highest regard for 
Mr. Lincoln. He seemed almost like an older brother, 
being, as it were, one of my sister's family." " 

There were two things Mr. Lincoln always seemed 
willing to forget. One was his unparliamentary escape 
with Joseph Gillespie from the Legislature by jumping 
through the church window, in 1839, 14 and the other was 
the difficulty with James Shields, or, as he expressed it in 
a letter to Speed, the "duel with Shields." Other inci- 
dents in his career he frequently called up in conversa- 
tion with friends, but in after years he seldom if ever 
referred to the affair with Shields. People in Illinois did 
gradually forget or, at least, cease to mention of it, but 
in more remote quarters where Mr. Lincoln was less ex- 
tensively known, the thing, much to his regret, kept ris- 
ing to the surface. During a visit which I made to the 
Eastern States in 1858, I was often asked for an account 
of the so-called duel ; so often, in fact, that on my return 
home I told Mr. Lincoln of it. "If all the good things 
I have ever done," he said regretfully, "are remembered . 
as long and well as my scrape with Shields, it is plain I 
shall not soon be forgotten." «. — ■* 

James Shields, a "gallant, hot-headed bachelor from 
Tyrone County, Ireland," and a man of inordinate vanity, 
had been elected Auditor of State. Encouraged some- 
what by the prominence the office gave him, he at once 
assumed a conspicuous position in the society of Spring- 

13 Original footnote. 

14 This escapade actually took place December 5, 1840. 


field. He was extremely sensitive by nature, but exposed 
himself to merciless ridicule by attempting to establish 
his supremacy as a beau among the ladies. Blind to his 
own defects, and very pronounced in support of every act 
of the Democratic party, he made himself the target for 
all the bitterness and ridicule of the day. It happened that 
the financial resources of the State, owing to the collapse 
of the great internal improvement system, were exceed- 
ingly limited, and people were growing restless under what 
they deemed excessive taxation. The State officers were 
all Democrats, and during the summer they issued an or- 
der declining to receive any more State Bank notes or bills 
in payment of taxes. This made the tax-payer's burdens 
greater than ever, as much of this paper remained out- 
standing in the hands of the people. 15 The order met with 
opposition from every quarter — the Whigs of course los- 
ing no opportunity to make it as odious as possible. It 
was perfectly natural, therefore, that such an ardent Whig 
as Lincoln should join in the popular denunciation. 
Through the columns of the Springfield Journal, of which 
he had the undisputed use, he determined to encourage 
the opposition by the use of his pen. No object seemed 
to merit more ridicule and caricature than the conspicu- 
ous figure of the Auditor of State. At this time Lincoln 
was enjoying stolen conferences under the hospitable roof 
of Mrs. Francis with Mary Todd and her friend Julia M. 
Jayne. These two young ladies, to whom he confided 
his purpose, encouraged it and offered to lend their aid. 
Here he caught the idea of puncturing Shields. The thing 
took shape in an article published in the Journal, purport- 
ing to have come from a poor widow, who with her pock- 
ets full of State Bank paper was still unable to obtain the 
coveted receipt for her taxes. It was written by Lin- 
coln and was headed : 16 

15 The order was not merely a piece of Democratic rascality, 
as the reader might suppose from this account. In view of the 
circumstances, and tinder the law, it was the only possible course. 

16 The letter printed here was the second of a series of three. 
The first, headed "Lost Townships," August 10, 1842, was a 


A Letter from the Lost Townships. 

Lost Townships, August 27, 1842. 
Dear Mr. Printer, 

I see you printed that long letter I sent you a spell ago. 
I'm quite encouraged by it, and can't keep from writing again. 
I think the printing of my letters will be a good thing all 
around — it will give me the benefit of being known by the 
world, and give the world the advantage of knowing what's 
going on in the Lost Townships, and give your paper respect- 
ability besides. So here comes another. Yesterday afternoon 
I hurried through cleaning up the dinner dishes and stepped 

over to neighbor S to see if his wife Peggy was as well 

as mout be expected, and hear what they called the baby. 
Well, when I got there and just turned round the corner of his 
log cabin, there he was, setting on the doorstep reading a news- 
paper. "How are you, Jeff ?" says I. He sorter started when 
he heard me, for he hadn't seen me before. "Why," says he, 
"I'm mad as the devil, Aunt 'Becca !" "What about?" says I ; 
"ain't its hair the right color? None of that nonsense, Jeff; 
there ain't an honester woman in the Lost Townships than" — 
"Than who ?" says he ; "what the mischief are you about ?" I 
began to see I was running the wrong trail, and so says I, 
"Oh! nothing: I guess I was mistaken a little, that's all. But 
what is it you're mad about?" 

"Why," says he, "I've been tugging ever since harvest, 
getting out wheat and hauling it to the river to raise State 
Bank paper enough to pay my tax this year and a little school 
debt I owe;, and now, just as I've got it, here I open this in- 
fernal Extra Register, expecting to find it full of 'Glorious 
Democratic Victories' and 'High Comb'd Cocks,' when, lo 
and behold ! I find a set of fellows, calling themselves officers 

vernacular statement of the Whig position on the National Bank 
and the tariff. One paragraph, however, referred to the specie 
dispute in these terms : 

"We heard a few days ago, by a traveller from Quincy, that 
the Governor was going to send instructions to collectors, not to 
take any thing but gold and silver for taxes. He said that the 
office-holders wanted gold and silver; and thought that the Gov- 
ernor should so far accommodate them as to force enough out 
of the farmers to fill their pockets. I hope it aint so ; because 
we've got no gold. If it has run up the Mississippi, as Col. 
Benton said it would, it certainly hasn't run up the Kickapoo." 

The letter of August 27 was the only one written by Lincoln. 


of the State, have forbidden the tax collectors and school com- 
missioners to receive State paper at all ; and so here it is dead 
on my hands. I don't now believe all the plunder I've got 
will fetch ready cash enough to pay my taxes and that school 

I was a good deal thunderstruck myself; for that was the 
first I had heard of the proclamation, and my old man was 
pretty much in the same fix with Jeff. We both stood a 
moment staring at one another without knowing what to say. 
At last says I, "Mr. S — , let me look at that paper/' He 
handed it to me, when I read the proclamation over. 

"There now," says he, "did you ever see such a piece of 
impudence and imposition as that ?" I saw Jeff was in a good 
tune for saying some ill-natured things, and so I tho't I would 
just argue a little on the contrary side, and make him rant a 
spell if I could. "Why," says I, looking as dignified and 
thoughtful as I could, "it seems pretty tough, to be sure, to 
have to raise silver where there's none to be raised ; but then, 
you see, 'there will be danger of loss' if it ain't done." 

"Loss ! damnation !" says he. "I defy Daniel Webster, I 
defy King Solomon, I defy the world — I defy — I defy — yes, I 
defy even you, Aunt 'Becca, to show how the people can lose 
anything by paying their taxes in State paper." 

"Well," says I, "you see what the officers of State say 
about it, and they are a desarnin' set of men. 

"But," says I, "I guess you're mistaken about what the 
proclamation says. It don't say the people will lose anything 
by the paper money being taken for taxes. It only says 'there 
will be danger of loss'; and though it is tolerable plain that 
the people can't lose by paying their taxes in something they 
can get easier than silver, instead of having to pay silver ; 
and though it's just as plain that the State can't lose by taking 
State Bank paper, however low it may be, while she owes the 
bank more than the whole revenue, and can pay that paper 
over on her debt, dollar for dollar ; — still there is danger of 
loss to the 'officers of State' ; and you know, Jeff, we can't get 
along without officers of State." 

"Damn officers of State!" says he; "that's what Whigs 
are always hurrahing for." 

"Now, don't swear so, Jeff," says I ; "you know I belong to 
the meetin', and swearin' hurts my feelings." 

"Beg pardon, Aunt 'Becca," says he; "but I do say it's 
enough to make Dr. Goddard swear, to have tax to pay in 


silver, for nothing only that Ford may get his two thousand 
a year, and Shields his twenty-four hundred a year, and Car- 
penter his sixteen hundred a year, and all without 'danger of 
loss' by taking it in State paper. Yes, yes: it's plain enough 
now what these officers of State mean by 'danger of loss/ 
Wash, I s'pose, actually lost fifteen hundred dollars out of the 
three thousand that two of these 'officers of State' let him 
steal from the treasury, by being compelled to take it in State 
paper. Wonder if we don't have a proclamation before long, 
commanding us to make up this loss to Wash in silver." 

And so he went on till his breath run out, and he had to 
stop. I couldn't think of anything to say just then, and so 
I begun to look over the paper again. "Ay ! here's another 
proclamation, or something like it." 

"Another ?" says Jeff ; "and whose egg is it, pray ?" 

I looked to the bottom of it, and read aloud, "Your obedient 
servant, James Shields, Auditor." 

"Aha!" says Jeff, "one of them same three fellows again. 
Well, read it, and let's hear what of it." 

I read on till I came to where it says, "The object of this 
measure is to suspend the collection of the revenue for the 
current year." 

"Now stop, now stop !" says he; "that's a lie a'ready, and I 
don't want to hear of it." 

"Oh ! maybe not," says I. 

"I say it — is — a — lie. Suspend the collection, indeed! 
Will the collectors, that have taken their oaths to make the 
collection, dare to suspend it? Is there anything in law re- 
quiring them to perjure themselves at the bidding of James 

"Will the greedy gullet of the penitentiary be satisfied with 
swallowing him instead of all of them, if they should venture 
to obey him? And would he not discover some 'danger of 
loss/ and be off about the time it came to taking their places ? 

"And suppose the people attempt to suspend, by refusing to 
pay; what then? The collectors would just jerk up their 
horses and cows, and the like, and sell them to the highest 
bidder for silver in hand, without valuation or redemption. 
Why, Shields didn't believe that story himself: it was never 
meant for the truth. If it was true, why was it not writ till 
five days after the proclamation? Why didn't Carlin and 
Carpenter sign it as well as Shields? Answer me that, Aunt 
'Becca. I say it's a lie, and not a well told one at that. It 


grins out like a copper dollar. Shields is a fool as well as a 
liar. With him truth is out of the question ; and as for getting 
a good, bright, passable lie out of him, you might as well try 
to strike fire from a cake of tallow. I stick to it, it's all an 
infernal Whig lie !" 

"A Whig lie! Highty tighty !" 

"Yes, a Whig lie; and it's just like everything the cursed 
British Whigs do. First they'll do some divilment, and then 
they'll tell a lie to hide it. And they don't care how plain a 
lie it is : they think they can cram any sort of a one down the 
throats of the ignorant Locofocos, as they call the Democrats." 

"Why, Jeff, you're crazy: you don't mean to say Shields 
is a Whig!" 

"Yes, I do." 

"Why, look here ! the proclamation is in your own Demo- 
cratic paper, as you call it." 

"I know it; and what of that? They only printed it to let 
us Democrats see the deviltry the Whigs are at." 

"Well, but Shields is the auditor of this Loco — I mean this 
Democratic State." 

"So he is, and Tyler appointed him to office. " 

"Tyler appointed him ?" 

"Yes (if you must chaw it over), Tyler appointed him; 
or, if it wasn't him, it was old Granny Harrison, and that's 
all one. I tell you, Aunt 'Becca, there's no mistake about his 
being a Whig. Why, his very looks shows it; everything 
about him shows it: if I was deaf and blind, I could tell him 
by the smell. I seed him when I was down in Springfield 
last winter. They had a sort of a gatherin' there one night 
among the grandees, they called a fair. All the gals about 
town was there, and all the handsome widows and married 
women, finickin' about trying to look like gals, tied as tight 
in the middle, and puffed out at both ends, like bundles of 
fodder that hadn't been stacked yet, but wanted stackin' pretty 
bad. And then they had tables all around the house kivered 
over with [ ] caps and pincushions and ten thousand 

such little knic-knacks, tryin' to sell 'em to the fellows that 
were bowin' and scrapin' and kungeerin' about 'em. They 
wouldn't let no Democrats in, for fear they'd disgust the 
ladies, or scare the little gals, or dirty the floor. I looked in 
at the window, and there was this same fellow Shields floatin' 
about on the air, without heft or earthly substances, just like 
a lock of cat fur where cats had been fighting. 


"He was paying his money to this one, and that one, and 
t'other one, and sufferin' great loss because it wasn't silver 
instead of State paper; and the sweet distress he seemed to 
be in, — his very features, in the ecstatic agony of his soul, 
spoke audibly and distinctly, 'Dear girls, it is distressing, but 
I cannot marry you all. Too well I know how much you 
suffer; but do, do remember, it is not my fault that I am so 
handsome and so interesting'. 

"As this last was expressed by a most exquisite contortion 
of his face, he seized hold of one of their hands, and squeezed, 
and held on to it about a quarter of an hour. 'Oh, my good 
fellow !' says I to myself, 'if that was one of our Democratic 
gals in the Lost Townships, the way you'd get a brass pin let 
into you would be about up to the head.' He a Democrat! 
Fiddlesticks ! I tell you, Aunt 'Becca, he's a Whig, and no 
mistake: nobody but a Whig could make such a conceity 
dunce of himself." 

"Well," says I, "maybe he is ; but, if he is, I'm mistaken the 
worst sort. Maybe so, maybe so; but, if I am, I'll suffer by 
it; I'll be a Democrat if it turns out that Shields is a Whig, 
considerin' you shall be a Whig if he turns out a Democrat." 

"A bargain, by jingoes!" says he; "but how will we find 

"Why," says I, "we'll just write and ax the printer." 

"Agreed again!" says he; "and by thunder! if it does turn 
out that Shields is a Democrat, I never will" — 

"Jefferson ! Jefferson !" 

"What do you want, Peggy?" 

"Do get through your everlasting clatter some time, and 
bring me a gourd of water; the child's been crying for a 
drink this livelong hour." 

"Let it die, then ; it may as well die for water as to be taxed 
to death to fatten officers of State." 

Jeff run off to get the water, though, just like he hadn't 
been saying anything spiteful for he's a raal good-hearted fel- 
low, after all, once you get at the foundation of him. 

I walked into the house, and, "Why, Peggy," says I, "I 
declare we like to forgot you altogether." 

"Oh, yes," says she, "when a body can't help themselves, 
everybody soon forgets 'em ; but, thank God ! by day after 
tomorrow I shall be well enough to milk the cows, and pen 
the calves, and wring the contrary ones' tails for 'em, and no 
thanks to nobody." 


"Good evening, Peggy," says I, and so I sloped, for I seed 
she was mad at me for making Jeff neglect her so long. 

And now, Mr. Printer, will you be sure to let us know 
in your next paper whether this Shields is a Whig or a 
Democrat? I don't care about it for myself, for I know well 
enough how it is already; but I want to convince Jeff. It 
may do some good to let him, and others like him, know who 
and what these officers of State are. It may help to send the 
present hypocritical set to where they belong, and to fill the 
places they now disgrace, with men who will do more work 
for less pay, and take a fewer airs while they are doing it. 
It ain't sensible to think that the same men who get us into 
trouble will change their course; and yet it's pretty plain if 
some change for the better is not made, it's not long that either 
Peggy or I or any of us will have a cow left to milk, or calf's 
tail to wring. 

Yours truly, 

Rebecca . 

Within a week another epistle from Aunt Rebecca ap- 
peared, in which among other things, she offered the gal- 
lant Shields her hand. This one was written by Miss 
Todd and Miss Jayne. I insert it without further com- 

Lost Townships, September 8, 1842. 
Dear Mr. Printer: 

I was a-standin' at the spring yesterday a-washin' out but- 
ter when I seed Jim Snooks a-ridin' up towards the house for 
very life, when, jist as I was a-wonderin' what on airth was 
the matter with him, he stops suddenly, and ses he, "Aunt 
'Becca, here's somethin' for you" ; and with that he hands out 
your letter. Well, you see, I steps out towards him, not 
thinkin' that I had both hands full of butter; and seem' I 
couldn't take the letter, you know, without greasin' it, I ses, 
"Jim, jist you open it, and read it for me." Well, Jim opens 
it and reads it ; and would you believe it, Mr. Editor, I was so 
completely dumfounded and turned into stone that there I 
stood in the sun a-workin' the butter, and it a-running on 
the ground, while he read the letter, that I never thunk what 
I was about till the hull on't run melted on the ground and 
was lost. Now, sir, it's not for the butter, nor the price of 
the butter, but, the Lord have massy on us, I wouldn't have 


sich another fright for a whole firkin of it. Why, when I 
found out that it was the man what Jeff seed down to the fair 
that had demanded the author of my letters, threatnin' to take 
personal satisfaction of the writer, I was so skart that I tho't 
I should quill-wheel right where I was. 

You say that Mr. S is offended at being compared to 

cats' fur, and is as mad as a March hare (that ain't fur), be- 
cause I told about the squeezin'. Now I want you to tell Mr. 

S that, rather than fight, I'll make any apology; and, if 

he wants personal satisfaction, let him only come here, and he 
may squeeze my hand as hard as I squeezed the butter, and, if 
that ain't personal satisfaction, I can only say that he is the 
fust man that was not satisfied with squeezin' my hand. If 
this should not answer, there is one thing more that I would 
rather do than get a lickin'. I have long expected to die a 
widow; but, as Mr. S is rather good-looking than other- 
wise, I must say I don't care if we compromise the matter 
by — really, Mr. Printer, I can't help blushin' — but I — it must 
come out — I — but widowed modesty — well, if I must, I must — 
wouldn't he — may be sorter let the old grudge drap if I was 
to consent to be — be — h-i-s w-i-f-e? I know he's a fightin' 
man, and would rather fight than eat ; but isn't marryin' better 
than fightin', though it does sometimes run in to it? And I 
don't think, upon the whole, that I'd be sich a bad match 
neither: I'm not over sixty, and am jist four feet three in 
my bare feet, and not much more around the girth; and for 
color, I wouldn't turn my back to nary a gal in the Lost 
Townships. But, after all, maybe I'm countin' my chickins 
before they are hatched, and dreamin' of matrimonial bliss 
when the only alternative reserved for me may be a lickin'. 
Jeff tells me the way these fire-eaters do is to give the chal- 
lenged party choice of weapons, etc., which bein' the case, 
I'll tell you in confidence that I never fights with anything 
but broomsticks or hot water or a shovelful of coals or some 
such thing; the former of which, being somewhat like a shilla- 
lah, may not be very objectional to him. I will give him 
choice, however, in one thing, and that is, whether, when we 
fight, I shall wear breeches or he petticoats, for, I presume 
that change is sufficient to place us on an equality. 

Yours, etc., 

Rececca . 

P. S. — Jist say to your friend, if he concludes to marry 


rather than fight, I shall only inforce one condition, that is, 
if he should ever happen to gallant any young gals home of 
nights from our house, he must not squeeze their hands. 

Not content with their epistolary efforts, the ladies 
invoked the muse. "Rebecca" deftly transformed her- 
self into "Cathleen," and in jingling ryhme sang the 
praises of Shields, and congratulated him over the pros- 
pect of an early marriage to the widow. Following are 
the verses, rhyme, metre, and all: 

Ye Jew's harps awake ! The Auditor's won. 
Rebecca the widow has gained Erin's son; 
The pride of the north from Emerald Isle 
Has been wooed and won by a woman's smile. 
The combat's relinquished, old loves all forgot: 
To the widow he's bound. Oh, bright be his lot ! 
In the smiles of the conquest so lately achieved. 
Joyful be his bride, "widowed modesty" relieved, 
The footsteps of time tread lightly on flowers, 
May the cares of this world ne'er darken his hours ! 
But the pleasures of life are fickle and coy 
As the smiles of a maiden sent off to destroy. 
Happy groom ! in sadness far distant from thee 
The fair girls dream only of past times of glee 
Enjoyed in thy presence ; whilst the soft blarnied store 
Will be fondly remembered as relics of yore, 
And hands that in rapture you oft would have pressed, 
In prayer will be clasped that your lot may be blest. 

The satire running through these various compositions, 
and the publicity their appearance in the Journal gave 
them, had a most wonderful effect on the vain and irascible 
Auditor of State. He could no longer endure the merri- 
ment and ridicule that met him from every side. A man 
of cooler head might have managed it differently, but in 
the case of a high-tempered man like Shields he felt that 
his integrity had been assailed and that nothing but an 
"affair of honor" would satisfy him. Through General 
John D. Whiteside he demanded of editor Francis the 
name of the author. The latter hunted up Lincoln, who 


directed him to give his name and say nothing about the 
ladies. The further proceedings in this grotesque drama 
were so graphically detailed by friends of both parties 
in the columns of the Journal at that time, that I copy 
their letters as a better and more faithful narrative than 
can be obtained from any other source. The letter of 
Shields' second, General Whiteside, appearing first in the 
Journal, finds the same place in this chapter: 

Springfield, Oct. 3, 1842. 
To the Editor of the Sangamon Journal : 

Sir: To prevent misrepresentation of the recent affair 
between Messrs. Shields and Lincoln, I think it is proper to 
give a brief narrative of the facts of the case, as they came 
within my knowledge; for the truth of which I hold myself 
responsible, and request you to give the same publication. An 
offensive article in relation to Mr. Shields appeared in the 
Sangamon Journal of the 2d of September last; and, on de- 
manding the author, Mr. Lincoln was given up by the editor. 
Mr. Shields, previous to this demand, made arrangements to 
go to Quincy on public business ; and before his return Mr. 
Lincoln had left for Tremont to attend the court, with the 
intention, as we learned, of remaining on the circuit several 
weeks. Mr. Shields, on his return, requested me to accom- 
pany him to Tremont; and, on arriving there, we found that 
Dr. Merryman and Mr. Butler had passed us in the night, and 
got there before us. We arrived in Tremont on the 17th ult., 
and Mr. Shields addressed a note to Mr. Lincoln immediately, 
informing him that he was given up as the author of some 
articles that appeared in the Sangamon Journal (one more 
over the signature having made its appearance at this time), 
and requesting him to retract the offensive allusions contained 
in said articles in relation to his private character. Mr. 
Shields handed this note to me to deliver to Mr. Lincoln, and 
directed me, at the same time, not to enter into any verbal 
communication, or be the bearer of any verbal explanation, as- 
such were always liable to misapprehension. This note was 
delivered by me to Mr. Lincoln, stating, at the same time, that 
I would call at his convenience for an answer. Mr. Lincoln, 
in the evening of the same day, handed me a letter addressed 
to Mr. Shields. In this he gave or offered no explanation, 
but stated therein that he could not submit to answer further, 


on the ground that Mr. Shields' note contained an assumption 
of facts and also a menace. Mr. Shields then addressed him 
another note, in which he disavowed all intention to menace, 
and requested to know whether he (Mr. Lincoln) was author 
of either of the articles which appeared in the Journal, headed 
'Lost Townships/ and signed 'Rebecca' ; and, if so, he repeated 
his request of a retraction of the offensive matter in relation 
to his private character; if not, his denial would be held 
sufficient. This letter was returned to Mr. Shields unanswered, 
with a verbal statement 'that there could be no further negotia- 
tion between them until the first note was withdrawn.' Mr. 
Shields thereupon sent a note designating me as a friend, to 
which Mr. Lincoln replied by designating Dr. Merryman. 
These three last notes passed on Monday morning, the 19th. 
Dr. Merryman handed me Mr. Lincoln's last note when by 
ourselves. I remarked to Dr. Merryman that the matter was 
now submitted to us, and that I would propose that he and 
myself should pledge our words of honor to each other to try 
to agree upon terms of amicable arrangement, and compel our 
principals to accept of them. To this he readily assented, and 
we shook hands upon the pledge. It was then mutually agreed 
that we should adjourn to Springfield, and there procrastinate 
the matter, for the purpose of effecting the secret arrange- 
ment between him and myself. All this I kept concealed from 
Mr. Shields. Our horse had got a little lame in going to 
Tremont, and Dr. Merryman invited me to take a seat in his 
buggy. I accepted the invitation the more readily, as I 
thought that leaving Mr. Shields in Tremont until his horse 
would be in better condition to travel would facilitate the pri- 
vate agreement between Dr. Merryman and myself. I 
travelled to Springfield part of the way with him, and part 
with Mr. Lincoln; but nothing passed between us on the 
journey in relation to the matter in hand. We arrived in 
Springfield on Monday night. About noon on Tuesday, to my 
astonishment, a proposition was made to meet in Missouri, 
within three miles of Alton, on the next Thursday ! The 
weapons, cavalry broadswords of the largest size; the parties 
to stand on each side of a barrier, and to be confined to a 
limited space. As I had not been consulted at all on the sub- 
ject, and considering the private understanding between Dr. 
Merryman and myself, and it being known that Mr. Shields 
was left at Tremont, such a proposition took me by surprise. 
However, being determined not to violate the laws of the 


State, I declined agreeing upon the terms until we should 
meet in Missouri. Immediately after, I called upon Dr. 
Merryman and withdrew the pledge of honor between him 
and myself in relation to a secret arrangement. I started 
after this to meet Mr. Shields, and met him about twenty 
miles from Springfield. It was late on Tuesday night when 
we both reached the city and learned that Dr. Merryman had 
left for Missouri, Mr. Lincoln having left before the proposi- 
tion was made, as Dr. Merryman had himself informed me. 
The time and place made it necessary to start at once. We 
left Springfield at eleven o'clock on Tuesday night, travelled 
all night, and arrived in Hillsborough on Wednesday morn- 
ing, where we took in General Ewing. From there we went 
to Alton, where we arrived on Thursday ; and, as the proposi- 
tion required three friends on each side, I was joined by 
General Ewing and Dr. Hope, as the friends of Mr. Shields. 
We then crossed to Missouri, where a proposition was made 
by General Hardin and Dr. English (who had arrived there in 
the mean time as mutual friends) to refer the matter to, I 
think, four friends for a settlement. This I believed Mr. 
Shields would refuse, and declined seeing him ; but Dr. Hope, 
who conferred with him upon the subject, returned and stated 
that Mr. Shields declined settling the matter through any 
other than the friends he had selected to stand by him on that 
occasion. The friends of both the parties finally agreed to 
withdraw the papers (temporarily) to give the friends of Mr. 
Lincoln an opportunity to explain. Whereupon the friends of 
Mr. Lincoln, to-wit, Messrs. Merryman, Bledsoe, and Butler, 
made a full and satisfactory explanation in relation to the 
article which appeared in the Sangamon Journal of the 2d, the 
only one written by him. This was all done without the 
knowledge or consent of Mr. Shields, and he refused to ac- 
cede to it, until Dr. Hope, General Ewing, and myself declared 
the apology sufficient, and that we could not sustain him in 
going further. I think it necessary to state further, that no 
explanation or apology had been previously offered on the 
part of Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Shields, and that none was ever 
communicated by me to him, nor was any even offered to 
me, unless a paper read to me by Dr. Merryman after he had 
handed me the broadsword proposition on Tuesday. I heard 
so little of the reading of the paper, that I do not know fully 
what it purported to be ; and I was the less inclined to inquire, 
as Mr. Lincoln was then gone to Missouri, "and Mr. Shields 


not yet arrived from Tremont. In fact, I could not entertain 
any offer of the kind, unless upon my own responsibility ; and 
that I was not disposed to do after what had already trans- 

I make this statement, as I am about to be absent for some 
time, and I think it due to all concerned to give a true version 
of the matter before I leave. 

Your obedient servant, 

John D. Whiteside. 

Springfield, October 8, 1842. 
Editors of the Journal : 

Gents : — By your paper of Friday, I discover that General 
Whiteside has published his version of the late affair between 
Messrs. Shields and Lincoln, I now bespeak a hearing- of 
my version of the same affair, which shall be true and full as 
to all material facts. 

On Friday evening, the 16th of September, I learned that 
Mr. Shields and General Whiteside had started in pursuit of 
Mr. Lincoln, who was at Tremont, attending court. I knew 
that Mr. Lincoln was wholly unpracticed both as to the 
diplomacy and weapons commonly employed in similar affairs ; 
and I felt it my duty, as a friend, to be with him, and, so far 
as in my power, to prevent any advantage being taken of him 
as to either his honor or his life. Accordingly, Mr. Butler and 
myself started, passed Shields and Whiteside in the night, 
and arrived at Tremont ahead of them on Saturday morning. 
I told Mr. Lincoln what was brewing, and asked him what 
course he proposed to himself. He stated that he was wholly 
opposed to duelling, and would do anything to avoid it that 
might not degrade him in the estimation of himself and 
friends ; but, if such degradation or a fight were the only alter- 
natives, he would fight. 

In the afternoon Shields and Whiteside arrived, and very 
soon the former sent to Mr. Lincoln, by the latter, the follow- 
ing note or letter : — 

Tremont, September 17, 1842. 
A. Lincoln, Esq. : — I regret that my absence on public business 
compelled me to postpone a matter of private consideration a 
little longer than I could have desired. It will only be necessary, 
however, to account for it by informing you that I have been to 
Quincy on business that would not admit of delay. I will now 
state briefly the reasons of my troubling you with this communica- 


fion, the disagreeable nature of which I regret, as I had hoped 
to avoid any difficulty with any one in Springfield while residing 
there, by endeavoring to conduct myself in such a way amongst 
both my political friends and opponents, as to escape the necessity 
of any. Whilst thus abstaining from giving provocation, I have 
become the object of slander, vituperation, and personal abuse 
which were I capable of submitting to, I would prove myself 
worthy of the whole of it. 

In two or three of the last numbers of the Sangamon Journal, 
articles of the most personal nature, and calculated to degrade 
me, have made their appearance. On inquiring, I was informed 
by the editor of that paper, through the medium of my friend, 
General Whiteside, that you are the author of those articles. This 
information satisfies me that I have become, by some means or 
other, the object of secret hostility. I will not take the trouble 
of inquiring into the reason of all this, but I will take the liberty 
of requiring a full, positive, and absolute retraction of all of- 
fensive allusions used by you in these communications, in relation 
to my private character and standing as a man, as an apology for 
the insults conveyed in them. 

This may prevent consequences which no one will regret more 
than myself. 

Your ob't serv't, 

Jas. Shields. 

About sunset, General Whiteside called again, and secured 
from Mr. Lincoln the following answer to Mr. Shield's note : — 

Tremont, September 17, 1842. 

Jas. Shields, Esq. : — Your note of today was handed me 
by General Whiteside. In that note you say you have been in- 
formed, through the medium of the editor of the Journal, that 
I am the author of certain articles in that paper which you deem 
personally abusive of you ; and, without stopping to inquire whether 
I really am the author, or to point out what is offensive in 
them, you demand an unqualified retraction of all that is offensive, 
and then proceed to hint at consequences. 

Now, sir, there is in this so much assumption of facts, and 
so much of menace as to consequences, that I cannot submit to 
answer that note any further than I have, and to add, that the 
consequences to which I suppose you allude would be matter of 
as great regret to me as it possibly could to you. 

A. Lincoln. 

In about an hour, General Whiteside called again with 
another note from Mr. Shields; but after conferring with 
Mr. Butler for a long time, say two or three hours, returned 


without presenting the note to Mr. Lincoln. This was in con- 
sequence of an assurance from Mr. Butler that Mr. Lincoln 
could not receive any communication from Mr. Shields, un- 
less it were a withdrawal of his first note, or a challenge. 
Mr. Butler further stated to General Whiteside, that, on the 
withdrawal of the first note, and a proper and gentlemanly 
request for an explanation, he had no doubt one would be 
given. General Whiteside admitted that that was the course 
Mr. Shields ought to pursue, but deplored that his furious 
and intractable temper prevented his having any influence 
with him to that end. General Whiteside then requested us 
to wait with him until Monday morning, that he might en- 
deavor to bring Mr. Shields to reason. 

On Monday morning he called and presented Mr. Lincoln 
the same note as Mr. Butler says he had brought on Saturday 
evening. It was as follows: — 

Tremont, September 17, 1842. 

A. Lincoln, Esq.: — In your reply to my note of this date, 
you intimate that I assume facts and menace consequences, 
and that you cannot submit to answer? it further. As now, sir, 
you desire it, I will be a little more particular. The editor of 
the Sangamon Journal gave me to understand that you are the 
author of an article which appeared, I think, in that paper of 
the 2d September inst., headed "The Lost Townships" and signed 
Rebecca or 'Becca. I would therefore take the liberty of asking 
whether you are the author of said article, or any other of the 
same signature which has appeared in any of the late numbers 
of that paper. If so, I repeat my request of an absolute retraction 
of all offensive allusions contained therein in relation to my 
private character and standing. 

If you are not the author of any of the articles, your denial 
will be sufficient. I will say further, it is not my intention to 
menace, but to do myself justice. 

Your ob't serv't, 

Jas. Shields. 

This Mr. Lincoln perused, and returned to General White- 
side, telling him verbally, that he did not think it consistent 
with his honor to negotiate for peace with Mr. Shields, unless 
Mr. Shields would withdraw his former offensive letter. 

In a very short time General Whiteside called with a note 
from Mr. Shields, designating General Whiteside as his 
friend, to which Mr. Lincoln instantly replied designating me 


as his. On meeting General Whiteside, he proposed that we 
should pledge our honor to each other that we would endeavor 
to settle the matter amicably ; to which I agreed, and stated to 
him the only conditions on which it could be settled; viz., the 
withdrawal of Mr. Shield's first note, which he appeared to 
think reasonable, and regretted that the note had been written, 
saying however, that he had endeavored to prevail on Mr. 
Shields to write a milder one, but had not succeeded. He 
added, too, that I must promise not to mention it, as he would 
not dare to let Mr. Shields know that he was negotiating 
peace ; for, said he, "He would challenge me next, and as soon 
cut my throat as not." Not willing that he should suppose 
my principal less dangerous than his own, I promised not to 
mention our pacific intentions to Mr. Lincoln or any other 
person ; and we started for Springfield forthwith. 

We all, except Mr. Shields, arrived in Springfield late at 
night on Monday. We discovered that the affair had, some- 
how, got great publicity in Springfield, and that an arrest was 
probable. To prevent this, it was agreed by Mr. Lincoln and 
myself that he should leave early on Tuesday morning. Ac- 
cordingly, he prepared the following instructions for my 
guide, on a suggestion from Mr. Butler that he had reason to 
believe that an attempt would be made by the opposite party 
to have the matter accommodated: 

"In case Whiteside shall signify a wish to adjust this affair 
without further difficulty, let him know that, if the present 
papers be withdrawn, and a note from Mr. Shields asking to 
know if I am the author of the articles of which he complains, 
and asking that I shall make him gentlemanly satisfaction if 
I am the author, and this without menace or dictation as to 
what that satisfaction shall be, a pledge is made that the fol- 
lowing answer shall be given: 

" 'I did write the "Lost Township" letter which appeared in 
the Journal of the 2d inst., but had no participation in any 
form in any other article alluding to you. I wrote that wholly 
for political effect. I had no intention of injuring your per- 
sonal or private character, or standing as a man or a gentle- 
man ; and I did not then think, and do not now think, that that 
article could produce, or has produced, that effect against you ; 
and had I anticipated such an effect, I would have forborne to 
write it. And I will add, that your conduct towards me, so 
far as I knew, had always been gentlemanly, and that I had 
no personal pique against you, and no cause for any/ 


"If this should be done, I leave it with you to manage whai 
shall and what shall not be published. 

"If nothing like this is done, the preliminaries of the fight 
are to be: 

"1st. Weapons : — Cavalry broadswords of the largest size, 
precisely equal in all respects, and such as now used by the 
cavalry company at Jacksonville. 

"2d. Position: — A plank ten feet long, and from nine to 
twelve inches broad, to be firmly fixed on edge on the ground 
as the line between us, which neither is to pass his foot over 
upon forfeit of his life. Next, a line drawn on the ground on 
either side of said plank and parallel with it, each at the dis- 
tance of the whole length of the sword and three feet addi- 
tional from the plank; and the passing of his own such line 
by either party during the fight shall be deemed a surrender 
of the contest. 

"3d. Time: — On Thursday evening at five o'clock, if you 
can get it so; but in no case to be at a greater distance of 
time than Friday evening at 5 o'clock. 

"4th. Place: — Within three miles of Alton, on the opposite 
side of the river, the particular spot to be agreed on by you. 

"Any preliminary details coming within the above rules, you 
are at liberty to make at your discretion; but you are in no 
case to swerve from these rules, or to pass beyond their limits." 

In the course of the forenoon I met General Whiteside, and 
he again intimated a wish to adjust the matter amicably. I 
then read to him Mr. Lincoln instructions to an adjustment, 
and the terms of the hostile meeting, if there must be one, both 
at the same time. 

He replied that it was useless to talk of an adjustment, if 
it could only be effected by the withdrawal of Mr. Shields' 
paper, for such withdrawal Mr. Shields would never consent 
to ; adding, that he would as soon think of asking Mr. Shields 
to "butt his brains out against a brick wall as to withdraw 
that paper." He proceeded: "I see but one course — that is a 
desperate remedy: 'tis to tell them, if they will not make the 
matter up, they must fight us." I replied, that, if he chose to 
fight Mr. Shields to compel him to do right, he might do so; 
but as for Mr. Lincoln, he was on the defensive, and, I believe, 
in the right, and I should do nothing to compel him to do 
wrong. Such withdrawal having been made indispensable by 
Mr. Lincoln, I cut the matter short as to an adjustment, and 
I proposed to General Whiteside to accept the terms of the 


fight, which he refused to do until Mr. Shields' arrival in 
town, but agreed, verbally, that Mr. Lincoln's friends should 
procure the broadswords, and take them to the ground. In 
the afternoon he came to me, saying that some persons were 
swearing out affidavits to have us arrested, and that he in- 
tended to meet Mr. Shields immediately, and proceed to the 
place designated, lamenting, however, that I would not delay 
the time, that he might procure the interference of Governor 
Ford and General Ewing to mollify Mr. Shields. I told him 
that an accommodation, except upon the terms I mentioned, 
was out of question; that to delay the meeting was to facilitate 
our arrest; and, as I was determined not to be arrested, I 
should leave the town in fifteen minutes. I then pressed his 
acceptance of the preliminaries, which he disclaimed upon the 
ground that it would interfere with his oath of office as Fund 
Commissioner. I then, with two other friends, went to Jack- 
sonville, where we joined Mr. Lincoln about 11 o'clock on 
Tuesday night. Wednesday morning we procured the broad- 
swords, and proceeded to Alton, where we arrived about 11 
o'clock A. M., on Thursday. The other party were in town 
before us. We crossed the river, and they soon followed. 
Shortly after, General Hardin and Dr. English presented to 
General Whiteside and myself the following note : 

Alton, September 22, 1842. 

Messrs. Whiteside and Merryman : — As the mutual personal 
friends of Messrs. Shields and Lincoln, but without authority 
from either, we earnestly desire to see a reconciliation of the 
misunderstanding which exists between them. Such difficulties 
should always be arranged amicably, if it is possible to do so 
with honor to both parties. 

Believing, ourselves, that such an arrangement can possibly 
be effected, we respectfully but earnestly submit the following 
proposition for your consideration : 

Let the whole difficulty be submitted to four or more gentle- 
men, to be selected by ourselves, who shall consider the affair, 
and report thereupon for your consideration. 

John J. Hardin, 
R. W. English. 

To this proposition General Whiteside agreed: I declined 
doing so without consulting Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln re- 
marked that, as they had accepted the proposition, he would 
do so, but directed that his friends should make no terms 


except those first proposed. Whether the adjustment was 
finally made upon these very terms and no other, let the fol- 
lowing documents attest: 

Missouri, September 22, 1842. 
Gentlemen : — All papers in relation to the matter in con- 
troversy between Mr. Shields and Mr. Lincoln having been with- 
drawn by the friends of the parties concerned, the friends of Mr. 
Shields ask the friends of Mr. Lincoln to explain all offensive 
matter in the articles which appeared in the Sangamon Journal, 
of the 2d, 9th, and 16th of September, under the signature of 
"Rebecca," and headed "Lost Townships." 

It is due General Hardin and Mr. English to state that their 
interference was of the most courteous and gentlemanly charac- 

John D. Whiteside. 
Wm. Lee D. Ewing. 
T. M. Hope. 

Missouri, September 22, 1842. 
Gentlemen : — All papers in relation to the matter in con- 
troversy between Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Shields having been 
withdrawn by the friends of the parties concerned, we, the un- 
dersigned, friends of Mr. Lincoln, in accordance with your request 
that explanation of Mr. Lincoln's publication in relation to Mr. 
Shields in the Sangamon Journal of the 2d, 9th, and 16th of 
September be made, take pleasure in saying, that, although Mr. 
Lincoln was the writer of the article signed "Rebecca" in the 
Journal of the 2d, and that only, yet he had no intention of in- 
juring the personal or private character or standing of Mr. 
Shields as a gentleman or a man, and that Mr. Lincoln did not 
think, nor does he now think, that said article could produce such 
an effect; and, had Mr. Lincoln anticipated such an effect, he 
would have forborne to write it. We will state further, that 
said article was written solely for political effect, and not to 
gratify any personal pique against Mr. Shields, for he had none 
and knew of no cause for any. It is due to General Hardin and 
Mr. English to say that their interference was of the most court- 
eous and gentlemanly character. 

E. H. Merryman. 

A. T. Bledsoe. 

Wm. Buttler. 

Let it be observed now, that Mr. Shields' friends, after 
agreeing to the arbitrament of four disinterested gentlemen, 
declined the contract, saying that Mr. Shields wished his own 
friends to act for him. They then proposed that we should 


explain without any withdrawal of papers. This was promptly 
and firmly refused, and General Whiteside himself pronounced 
the papers withdrawn. They then produced a note requesting 
us to "disavow" all offensive intentions in the publications, 
etc., etc. This we declined answering, and only responded to 
the above request for an explanation. 

These are the material facts in relation to the matter, and 
I think present the case in a very different light from the 
garbled and curtailed statement of General Whiteside. Why 
he made that statement I know not, unless he wished to de- 
tract from the honor of Mr. Lincoln. This was ungenerous, 
more particularly as he on the ground requested us not to 
make in our explanation any quotations from the "Rebecca 
papers ;" also, not to make public the terms of reconciliation, 
and to unite with them in defending the honorable character 
of the adjustment. 

General Whiteside, in his publication, says: "The friends 
of both parties agreed to withdraw the papers (temporarily) 
to give the friends of Mr. Lincoln an opportunity to explain." 
This I deny. I say the papers were withdrawn to enable Mr. 
Shields's friends to ask an explanation; and I appeal to the 
documents for proof of my position. 

By looking over these documents, it will be seen that Mr. 
Shields had not before asked for an explanation, but had all 
the time been dictatorially insisting on a retraction. 

General Whiteside, in his communication, brings to light 
much of Mr. Shields's manifestations of bravery behind the 
scenes. I can do nothing of the kind for Mr. Lincoln. He 
took his stand when I first met him at Tremont, and main- 
tained it calmly to the last, without difficulty or difference 
between himself and his friends. 

I cannot close this article, lengthy as it is, without testifying 
to the honorable and gentlemanly conduct of General Ewing 
and Dr. Hope, nor indeed can I say that I saw anything ob- 
jectionable in the course of General Whiteside up to the time 
of his communication. This is so replete with prevarication 
and misrepresentation, that I cannot accord to the General 
that candor which I once supposed him to possess. He com- 
plains that I did not procrastinate time according to agree- 
ment. He forgets that by his own act he cut me off from that 
chance in inducing me, by promise, not to communicate our 
secret contract to Mr. Lincoln. Moreover, I could see no con- 
sistency in wishing for an extension of time at that stage of 


the affair, when in the outset they were in so precipitate a 
hurry that they could not wait three days for Mr. Lincoln to 
return from Tremont, but must hasten there, apparently with 
the intention of bringing the matter to a speedy issue. He 
complains, too, that, after inviting him to take a seat in the 
buggy I never broached the subject to him on our route here. 
But was I, the defendant in the case, with a challenge hang- 
ing over me, to make advances, and beg a reconciliation? 

Absurd! Moreover, the valorous General forgets that he 
beguiled the tedium of the journey by recounting to me his 
exploits in many a well-fought battle, — dangers by "flood and 
field," in which I don't believe he ever participated, — doubtless 
with a view to produce a salutary effect on my nerves, and 
impress me with a proper notion of his fire-eating propensities. 

One more main point of his argument and I have done. 
The General seems to be troubled with a convenient shortness 
of memory on some occasions. He does not remember that 
any explanations were offered at any time, unless it were a 
paper read when the "broadsword proposition" was tendered, 
when his mind was so confused by the anticipated clatter of 
broadswords, or something else, that he did "not know fully 
what it purported to be." The truth is, that, by unwisely 
refraining from mentioning it to his principal, he placed him- 
self in a dilemma which he is now endeavoring to shuffle out 
of. By his inefficiency and want of knowledge of those laws 
which govern gentlemen in matters of this kind, he has done 
great injustice to his principal, a gentleman who, I believe, 
is ready at all times to vindicate his honor manfully, but who 
has been unfortunate in the selection of his friends, and this 
fault he is now trying to wipe out by doing an act of still 
greater injustice to Mr. Lincoln. 

E. H. Merryman. 

Dr. Merryman's elaborate and graphic account of the 
meeting at the duelling ground and all the preliminary 
proceedings is as full and complete a history of this serio- 
comic affair as any historian could give. Mr. Lincoln, 
as mentioned in the outset of this chapter, in the law of- 
fice and elsewhere, as a rule, refrained from discussing 
it. I only remember of hearing him say this, in reference 
to the duel : "I did not intend to hurt Shields unless I 
did so clearly in self-defense. If it had been necessary I 
could have split him from the crown of his head to the end 


of his backbone"; and when one takes into consideration 
the conditions of weapons and position required in his in- 
structions to Dr. Merryman the boast does not seem im- 

The following letter from Lincoln to his friend Speed 
furnishes the final outcome of the "duelling business." 

Springfield, October 4, 1842. 
Dear Speed : — 

You have heard of my duel with Shields, and I have now 
to inform you that the duelling business still rages in this 
city. Day before yesterday Shields challenged Butler, who 
accepted, proposed righting next morning at sunrise in Bob 
Allen's meadow, one hundred yards distance, with rifles. 
To this Whiteside, Shields's second, said 'no' because of the 
law. Thus ended duel No. 2. Yesterday Whiteside chose to 
consider himself insulted by Dr. Merryman, so sent him a 
kind of quasi-challenge inviting him to meet him at the Plant- 
er's House in St. Louis, on the next Friday, to settle their 
difficulty. Merryman made me his friend, and sent White- 
side a note, inquiring to know if he meant his note as a chal- 
lenge, and if so, that he would, according to the law in such 
case made and provided, prescribe the terms of the meeting. 
Whiteside returned for answer that if Merryman would meet 
him at the Planter's House as desired, he would challenge 
him. Merryman replied in a note, that he denied Whiteside's 
right to dictate time and place, but that he (Merryman) would 
wave the question of time, and meet him at Louisiana, Mo. 
Upon my presenting his note to Whiteside, and stating verbally 
its contents, he declined receiving it, saying he had business 
in St. Louis, and it was as near as Louisiana. Merryman 
then directed me to notify Whiteside that he should publish 
the correspondence between them, with such comments as he 
saw fit. This I did. Thus it stood at bed-time last night. 
This morning Whiteside, by his friend Shields, is praying 
for a new trial, on the ground that he was mistaken in Merry- 
man's proposition to meet him at Louisiana, Mo., thinking it 
was the State of Louisiana. This Merryman hoots at, and is 
preparing his publication ; while the town is in a ferment, and 
a street-fight somewhat anticipated. 

Yours forever, 



The marriage of Lincoln in no way diminished his love 
for politics; in fact, as we shall see later along, it served 
to stimulate his zeal in that direction. He embraced every 
opportunity that offered for a speech in public. Early in 
1842 he entered into the Washington movement organized 
to suppress the evils of intemperance. At the request of 
the society he delivered an admirable address, on Wash- 
ington's birthday, in the Presbyterian Church, which, in 
keeping with former efforts, has been so often published 
that I need not quote it in full. 17 I was then an ardent tem- 
perance reformer myself, and remember well how one 
paragraph of Lincoln's speech offended the church mem- 
bers who were present. Speaking of certain Christians 
who objected to the association of drunkards, even with 
the chance of reforming them, he saidj~"lf they (the 
Christians) believe, as they profess, that Omnipotence 
condescended to take on himself the form of sinful man, 
and as such die an ignominious death, surely they will 
not refuse submission to the infinitely lesser condescen- 
sion, for the temporal and perhaps eternal salvation of 
a large, erring, and unfortunate class of their fellow- 
creatures. Nor is the condescension very great. In my 
judgment such of us as have never fallen victims have 
been spared more from the absence of appetite than from 
any mental or moral superiority over those who have. 
Indeed, I believe, if we take habitual drunkards as a class, 
their heads and their hearts will bear an advantageous 
comparison with those of any other class." The avowal 
of these sentiments proved to be an unfortunate thing 
for Lincoln. The professing Christians regarded the sus- 
picion suggested in the first sentence as a reflection on the 
sincerity of their belief, and the last one had no better 
effect in reconciling them to his views. I was at the door 
of the church as the people passed out, and heard them 

17 Lincoln's address was a plea to all to support the temperance 
movement by joining the Washington Society, regardless of 
whether or not they had been users of liquor. The strength of 
the movement is evident from an announcement in the Sangamo 
Journal, three months after Lincoln's speech, that the Springfield 
Society then numbered 700 members. 


discussing the speech. Many of them were open in the 
expression of their displeasure. "It's a shame," I heard 
one man say, "that he should be permitted to abuse us so 
in the house of the Lord." The truth was the society was 
composed mainly of the roughs and drunkards of the 
town, who had evinced a desire to reform. Many of them 
were too fresh from the gutter to be taken at once into 
the society of such people as worshipped at the church 
where the speech was delivered. Neither was there that 
concert of effort so universal today between the churches 
and temperance societies to rescue the fallen. The whole 
thing, I repeat, was damaging to Lincoln, and gave rise 
to the opposition on the part of the churches which con- 
fronted him several years afterwards when he became a 
candidate against the noted Peter Cartwright for Con- 
gress. The charge, therefore, that in matters of religion 
he was a skeptic was not without its supporters, especially 
where his opponent was himself a preacher. But, nothing 
daunted, Lincoln kept on and labored zealously in the in- 
terest of the temperance movement. He spoke often 
again in Springfield, and also in other places over the 
country, displaying the same courage and adherence to 
principle that characterized his every undertaking. 

Meanwhile, he had one eye open for politics as he moved 
along. He was growing more self-reliant in the practice 
of law every day, and felt amply able to take charge of 
and maintain himself in any case that happened to come 
into his hands. His propensity for the narration of an apt 
story was of immeasurable aid to him before a jury, and in 
cases where the law seemed to lean towards the other side 
won him many a case. In 1842, Martin Van Buren, who 
had just left the Presidential chair, made a journey through 
the West. He was accompanied by his former Secretary 
of the Navy, Mr. Paulding, and in June they reached the 
village of Rochester, distant from Springfield six miles. 18 

18 The Illinois State Register for June 24, 1842, thus describes 
Van Buren's arrival in Springfield: "The Ex-President accom- 
panied by Judge Whitcomb of Indiana, arrived in Springfield on 
last Friday morning, [June 17] ; and our citizens, laying aside all 


It was evening when they arrived, and on account of the 
muddy roads they decided to go no farther, but to rest 
there for the night. Word was sent into Springfield, and 
of course the leading Democrats of the capital hurried out 
to meet the distinguished visitor. Knowing the accom- 
modations at Rochester were not intended for or suited 
to the entertainment of an ex-President, they took with 
them refreshments in quantity and variety, to make up 
for all deficiencies. Among others, they prevailed on 
Lincoln, although an ardent and pronounced Whig, to ac- 
company them. They introduced him to the venerable 
statesman of Kinderhook as a representative lawyer, and 
a man whose wit was as ready as his store of anecdotes 
was exhaustless. How he succeeded in entertaining the 
visitor and the company, those who were present have 
often since testified. Van Buren himself entertained the 
crowd with reminiscences of politics in New York, going 
back to the days of Hamilton and Burr, and many of the 
crowd in turn interested him with graphic descriptions of 
early life on the western frontier. But they all yielded 
at last to the piquancy and force of Lincoln's queer stories. 
"Of these," relates Joseph Gillespie, one of the company, 
"there was a constant supply, one following another in 
rapid succession, each more irresistible than its predecessor. 
The fun continued until after midnight, and until the dis- 
tinguished traveller insisted that his sides were sore from 
laughing." The yarns which Lincoln gravely spun out, 
Van Buren assured the crowd, he never would forget. 

party considerations, cordially united in greeting him with a hearty 
welcome. Never have we seen a public man so warmly received 
by his fellow-citizens. — But two days' notice of his expected ar- 
rival was given, and that notice had but a limited circulation, yet 
several thousand persons awaited his arrival near the city. — He 
had reached Rochester (eight miles from Springfield) on the 
evening previous, where many of our people from the surrounding 
country had the pleasure of taking him by the hand. He remained 
over night at that place, at the house of Mr. Doty." 

Van Buren remained in Springfield three days. "He went 
through the various rooms of the State House on Saturday, and 
on Sunday visited the Methodist Church in the morning and the 
Second Presbyterian in the afternoon." 


After April 14, 1841, when Lincoln retired from the 
partnership with Stuart, who had gone to Congress, he 
had been associated with Stephen T. Logan, a man who 
had, as he deserved, the reputation of being the best nisi 
prius lawyer in the State. Judge Logan was a very orderly 
but somewhat technical lawyer. He had some fondness 
for politics, and made one race for Congress, but he 
lacked the elements of a successful politician. He was 
defeated, and returned to the law. He was assiduous 
in study and tireless in search of legal principles. He 
was industrious and very thrifty, delighted to make and 
save money, and died a rich man. Lincoln had none of 
Logan's qualities. He was anything but studious, and had 
no money sense. He was five years younger, and yet his 
mind and makeup so impressed Logan that he was invited 
into the partnership with him. Logan's example had a 
good effect on Lincoln, and it stimulated him to unusual 
endeavors. For the first time he realized the effectiveness 
of order and method in work, but his old habits eventually 
overcame him. He permitted his partner to do all the 
studying m "the preparation of cases, while he himself 
trusted to his general knowledge of the law and the in- 
spiration of the surroundings to overcome the judge or 
the jury. Logan was scrupulously exact, and used extra- 
ordinary care in the preparation of papers. His words 
were well chosen, and his style of composition was stately 
and formal. This extended even to his letters. This 
Lincoln lacked in every particular. I have before me a 
letter written by Lincoln at this time to the proprietors 
of a wholesale store in Louisville, for whom suit had been 
brought, in which, after notifying the latter of the sale of 
certain real estate in satisfaction of their judgment, he 
adds : "As to the real estate we cannot attend to it. We 
are not real estate agents, we are lawyers. We recommend 
that you give the charge of it to Mr. Isaac S. Britton, a 
trustworthy man, and one whom the Lord made on pur- 
pose for such business." He gravely signs the firm name, 
Logan and Lincoln, to this unlawyerlike letter and sends 
it on its way. Logan never would have written such a 


letter. He had too much gravity and austere dignity to 
permit any such looseness of expression in letters to his 
clients or to anyone else. 

[Logan's estimate of Lincoln as a lawyer has recently 
come to light. "Lincoln's knowledge of law was very 
small when I took him in," he wrote. "I don't think he 
studied very much. I think he learned his law more in the 
study of cases. He would work hard and learn all there 
was in a case he had in hand. He got to be a pretty good 
lawyer though his general knowledge of law was never 
very formidable. But he would study out his case and 
make about as much of it as anybody. After a while he 
began to pick up a considerable ambition in the law. He 
didn't have confidence enough at first. . . . 

"Both he and Baker were exceedingly useful to me in 
getting the good will of juries. Lincoln seemed to put 
himself at once on an equality with everybody — never of 
course while they were outrageous, never whiH they were 
drunk or noisy, or anything of the kind. . . . 

"Lincoln was growing all the time, from the time I first 
knew him. He was not much of a reader. Lincoln was 
never what might be called a very industrious reader. But 
he would get a case and try to know all there was con- 
nected with it ; and in that way before he left this country 
he got to be quite a formidable lawyer. 

"But he had this one peculiarity: he couldn't fight in a 
bad case. 

"So far as his reading knowledge of law went he had 
a quite unusual grasp of the principles involved. When 
he was with me, I have seen him get a case and seem to be 
bewildered at first, but he would go at it and after a while 
he would master it. He was very tenacious in his grasp 
f of a thing that he once got hold of." 19 ] 

In 1843, Logan and Lincoln both had their eyes set 
on the race for Congress. Logan's claim to the honor lay 
in his age and the services he had rendered the Whig 
party, while Lincoln, overflowing with ambition, lay great 

19 Bulletin, Lincoln Centennial Association (now Abraham Lin- 
coln Association), Sept. 1, 1928. 


stress on his legislative achievements, and demanded it 
because he had been defeated in the nominating conven- 
tions by both Hardin and Baker in the order named. 
That two such aspiring politicians, each striving to obtain 
the same prize, should not dwell harmoniously together 
in the same office is not strange. Indeed, we may reason- 
ably credit the story that they considered themselves rivals, 
and that numerous acrimonious passages took place be- 
tween them. I was not surprised, therefore, one morning, 
to see Mr. Lincoln come rushing up into my quarters and 
with more or less agitation tell me he had determined to 
sever the partnership with Logan. I confess I was sur- 
prised when he invited me to become his partner. I was 
young in the practice and was painfully aware of my 
want of ability and experience ; but when he remarked in 
his earnest, honest way, "Billy, I can trust you, if you 
can trust me," I felt relieved, and accepted the generous 
proposal. It has always been a matter of pride with me 
that during our long partnership, continuing on until it 
was dissolved by the bullet of the assassin Booth, we 
never had any personal controversy or disagreement. I 
never stood in his way for political honors or office, and 
I believe we understood each other perfectly. In after 
years, when he became more prominent, and our practice 
grew to respectable proportions, other ambitious practition- 
ers undertook to supplant me in the partnership. One of 
the latter, more zealous than wise, charged that I was in a 
certain way weakening the influence of the firm. I am 
flattered to know that Lincoln turned on this last named 
individual with the retort, "I know my own business, I 
reckon. I know Billy Herndon better than anybody, and 
even if what you say of him is true I intend to stick by 

[In the light of what is now known it is almost certain 
that the rumors of a rift between Logan and Lincoln — 
which Herndon credited — were without foundation. 
Surely the contest for the Congressional nomination in 
1843 could have caused no trouble, for the Logan-Lincoln 
partnership was not terminated until late in 1844. The 


exact date is uncertain. Herndon was not admitted to 
the bar until December 9, 1844, but nine years later Lin- 
coln himself referred to the partnership as having com- 
menced in "the autumn of 1844." 

In view of these facts there seems to be no reason for 
doubting Logan's statement regarding the termination of 
his partnership with Lincoln. "Our law partnership con- 
tinued perhaps three years," he said. "I then told him 
that I wished to take in my son David with me who had 
meanwhile grown up, and Lincoln was perhaps by that 
time quite willing to begin on his own account. So we 
talked the matter over and dissolved the partnership 
amicably and in friendship." "] 

Lincoln's effort to obtain the Congressional nomination 
in 1843 brought out several unique and amusing incidents. 
He and Edward D. Baker were the two aspirants from 
Sangamon County, but Baker's long residence, extensive 
acquaintance, and general popularity were obstacles Lin- 
coln could not overcome ; accordingly, at the last moment, 
Lincoln reluctantly withdrew from the field. In a letter to 
his friend Speed, dated March 24, 1843, he describes the 
situation as follows : "We had a meeting of the Whigs of 
the county here on last Monday, to appoint delegates to 
a district convention ; and Baker beat me, and got the dele- 
gation instructed to go for him. The meeting, in spite of 
my attempt to decline it, appointed me one of the dele- 
gates; so that in getting Baker the nomination I shall be 
fixed a good deal like a fellow who is made groomsman 
to a man that has cut him out, and is marrying his own 
dear gal." Only a few days before this he had written 
a friend, Richard S. Thomas of Virginia, Illinois, anent 
the Congressional matter, "Now if you should hear any one 
say that Lincoln don't want to go to Congress, I wish you, 
as a personal friend of mine, would tell him you have 
reason to believe he is mistaken. The truth is I would 
like to go very much. Still, circumstances may happen 
which may prevent my being a candidate. If there are 
any who be my friends in such an enterprise, what I now 

20 Bulletin, Lincoln Centennial Association, Sept. 1, 1928. 


want is that they shall not throw me away just yet." To 
another friend, Martin M. Morris, in the adjoining county 
of Menard a few days after the meeting of the Whigs in 
Sangamon, he explains how Baker defeated him. 

The entire absence of any feeling of bitterness, or what 
the politicians call revenge, is the most striking feature of 
the letter. "It is truly gratifying," he says, "to me to 
learn that while the people of Sangamon have cast me off, 
my old friends of Menard, who have known me longest 
and best, stick to me. It would astonish if not amuse the 
older citizens to learn that I (a strange, friendless, un- 
educated, penniless boy, working on a flat-boat at ten 
dollars per month) have been put down here as the candi- 
date of pride, wealth, and aristocratic family distinction. 
Yet so, chiefly, it was. There was, too, the strangest com- 
bination of church influence against me. Baker is a Camp- 
bellite, and therefore as I suppose, with few exceptions, 
got all that church. My wife has some relations in the 
Presbyterian churches and some with the Episcopalian 
churches, and therefore, wherever it would tell, I was set 
down as either the one or the other, while it was every- 
where contended that no Christian ought to go for me, 
because I belonged to no church, was suspected of being 
a deist, and had talked about fighting a duel. With all 
these things Baker, of course, had nothing to do ; nor do 
I complain of them. As to his own church going for him 
I think that was right enough; and as to the influences I 
have spoken of in the other, though they were very 
strong, it would be grossly untrue and unjust to charge 
that they acted upon them in a body, or were very near 
so. I only mean that those influences levied a tax of con- 
siderable per cent, and throughout the religious contro- 
versy." To a proposition offering to instruct the Menard 
delegation for him he replies : "You say you shall instruct 
your delegates for me unless I object. I certainly shall 
not object. That would be too pleasant a compliment for 
me to tread in the dust. And besides, if anything should 
happen (which, however, is not probable) by which Baker 
should be thrown out of the fight, I would be at liberty 


to accept the nomination if I could get it. I do, however, 
feel myself bound not to hinder him in any way from get- 
ting the nomination. I should despise myself were I to 
attempt it." 

Baker's friends had used as an argument against Lin- 
coln that he belonged to a proud and aristocratic family, 
referring doubtless to some of the distinguished relatives 
who were connected with him by marriage. The story 
reaching Lincoln's ears, he laughed heartily over it one 
day in a Springfield store and remarked : 

"That sounds strange to me, for I do not remember 
of but one who ever came to see me, and while he was in 
town he was accused of stealing a jew's-harp." In the 
convention which was held shortly after at the town of 
Pekin neither Baker nor Lincoln obtained the coveted 
honor; but John J. Hardin, of Morgan, destined to lose 
his life at the head of an Illinois regiment in the Mexican 
war, was nominated, and in the following August, elected 
by a good majority. Lincoln bore his defeat manfully. 
He was no doubt greatly disappointed, but by no means 
soured. He conceived the strange notion that the pub- 
licity given his so-called "aristocratic family distinction" 
would cost him the friendship of his humbler constituents 
— his Clary's Grove friends. He took his friend James 
Matheny out into the woods with him one day and, call- 
ing up the bitter features of the canvass, protested "ve- 
hemently and with great emphasis" that he was anything 
but aristocratic and proud. "Why, Jim," he said, "I am 
now and always shall be the same Abe Lincoln I was when 
you first saw me." 

In the campaign of 1844 Lincoln filled the honorable 
post of Presidential elector, and he extended the limits of 
his acquaintance by stumping the State. This was the 
year the gallant and magnetic Clay went down in defeat. 
Lincoln, in the latter end of the canvass, crossed over into 
Indiana and made several speeches. He spoke at Rock- 
port and also, at Gentryville, where he met the Crigsbys, 
the Gentrys, and other friends of his boyhood. The re- 
sult of the election was a severe disappointment to Mr. 


Lincoln as well as to all other Whigs. No election since 
the foundation of the Government created more wide- 
spread regret than the defeat of Clay by Polk. Men were 
never before so enlisted in any man's cause, and when the 
great Whig chieftain went down his followers fled from 
the field in utter demoralization. Some doubted the suc- 
cess of popular government, while others, more hopeful 
still in the face of the general disaster, vowed they would 
never shave their faces or cut their hair till Henry Clay 
became President. As late as 1880 I saw one man who 
had lived up. to his insane resolution. One political society 
organized to aid Clay's election sent the defeated candi- 
date an address, in which they assured him that, after 
the smoke of battle had cleared away, he would ever be 
remembered as one "whose name honored defeat and gave 
it a glory which victory could not have brought." In 
Lincoln's case his disappointment was no greater than 
that of any other Whig. Many persons have yielded to 
the impression that Mr. Lincoln visited Clay at his home in 
Lexington and felt a personal loss in his defeat, but such 
is not the case. He took no more gloomy view of the 
situation than the rest of his party. He had been a leading 
figure himself in other campaigns, and was fully inured 
to the chilling blasts of defeat. They may have driven 
him in, but only for a short time, for he soon evinced a 
willingness to test the temper of the winds again. 

No sooner had Baker been elected to Congress in Au- 
gust 1844, than Lincoln began to manifest a longing for 
the tempting prize to be contended for in 1846. Hardin 
and Baker both having been required to content themselves 
with a single term each, the struggle among Whig aspirants 
narrowed down to Logan and Lincoln. The latter's claim 
seemed to find such favorable lodgment with the party 
workers, and his popularity seemed so apparent, that Logan 
soon realized his own want of strength and abandoned 
the field to his late law partner. 

The Whig candidates for Congress in the Springfield 
district "rotated" in the following order: Baker succeeded 
Hardin in 1844, Lincoln was elected in 1846, and Logan 


was nominated but defeated in 1848. Lincoln publicly 
declined to contest the nomination with Baker in 1844; 
Hardin did the same for Lincoln in 1846 — although both 
seem to have acted reluctantly; and Lincoln refused to 
run against Logan in 1848. Many persons insist that an 
agreement among these four conspicuous Whig leaders to 
content themselves with one term each actually existed. 
There is, however, no proof of any bargain, although 
there seems to have been a tacit understanding of the 
kind — maintained probably to keep other and less tractable 
candidates out of the field. 21 

[The real struggle for the nomination in 1846 was be- 
tween Lincoln and Hardin, who, elected in 1843, had given 
way to Baker the following year. Both men, having had 
a taste of life in Washington, threatened to oppose Lin- 
coln for the nomination in 1846. Lincoln successfully 
induced Baker to decline a renomination, but Hardin was 
determined upon a contest. Soon after Baker's with- 
drawal Hardin proposed to Lincoln that, the convention 
system of nominations be discarded and a new plan, more 
favorable to his own chances, be substituted. Lincoln 
rejected the proposal. Hardin remonstrated, and Lincoln 
answered in a long, candid letter which throws much 
light on his political methods. 

"In the early part of your letter," Lincoln reminds 
Hardin, "you introduce the proposition made by me to 
you and Baker, that we should take a turn a piece ; and 
alluding to the principle you suppose be involved in it, in 
an after part of your letter you say — 'As a whig I have 
constantly combatted such practices when practiced among 
the Locos ; & I do not see that they are any more praise- 
worthy, or less anti-republican, when sought to be adopted 
by whigs.' Now, if my proposition had been that we 
(yourself, Baker & I) should be candidates by turns, and 
that we should unite our strength throughout to keep down 
all other candidates, I should not deny the justice of the 
censurable language you employ ; but if you so understood 
it, you wholly misunderstood it. I never expressed, nor 

21 Original footnote. 


meant to express, that by such an arrangement, any of us 
should be, in the least restricted in his right to support 
any person he might choose, in the District ; but only 
that he should not himself, be a candidate out of his turn. 
I felt then, and it seems to me I said then, that even with 
such an arrangement, should Governor Duncan be a can- 
didate, when you were not, it would be your privilege and 
perhaps your duty to go for him. 

"In this, the true sense of my proposition," Lincoln de- 
clares, "I deny that there is any thing censurable in it — 
anything but a spirit of mutual concession, for harmony's 

"In this same connection," he reminds Hardin again, 
"you say, 'It is, in effect, acting upon the principle that 
the District is a horse which each candidate may mount 
and ride a two mile heat without consulting any body but 
the grooms & Jockeys.' Well, of course, you go on the 
contrary of this principle ; which is, in effect acting on 
the principle that the District is a horse which, the first 
jockey that can mount him, may whip and spur round 
and round, till jockey, or horse, or both, fall dead on the 
track. And upon your principle, there is a fact as fatal 
to your claims as mine, which is, that neither you nor I, 
but Baker is the jockey now in the stirrups. 

"'Without consulting any bodyi but the grooms & 
Jockeys' is an implied charge that I wish, in some way 
to interfere with the right of the people to select their 
candidate. I do not understand it so. I, and my few 
friends say to the people that 'Turn about is fair play.' 
You and your friends do not meet this, and say Turn 
about is not fair play' — but insist the argument itself 
ought not to be used. Fair or unfair, why not trust the 
people to decide it?" 

In conclusion, Lincoln makes a forceful plea for Har- 
din's withdrawal from the contest. "I believe you do not 
mean to be unjust, or ungenerous;" he- remarks, "and I. 
therefore am slow to believe that you will not think 
better and think differently of this matter." 


A few days later Hardin wrote a public letter declining 
longer to be considered a candidate. 22 ] 

The convention which nominated Lincoln met at Peters- 
burg May 1, 1846. Hardin, who, in violation of what was 
then regarded as precedent, had been seeking the nomina- 
tion, had courteously withdrawn. Logan, ambitious to 
secure the honor next time for himself, with apparent 
generosity presented Lincoln's name to the convention, 
and there being no other candidate he was chosen unani- 
mously. The reader need not be told whom the Demo- 
crats placed in the field against him. It was Peter Cart- 
wright, the famous Methodist divine and circuit rider. 
An energetic canvass of three months followed, during 
which Lincoln kept his forces well in hand. He was 
active and alert, speaking everywhere, and abandoning 
his share of business in the law office entirely. He had 
a formidable competitor in Cartwright, who not only had 
an extensive following by reason of his church influence, 
but rallied many more supporters around his standard by 
his pronounced Jacksonian attitude. He had come into 
Illinois with the early immigrants from Kentucky and 
Tennessee, and had at one time or another preached to 
almost every Methodist congregation between Springfield 
and Cairo. He had extensive family connections all over 
the district, was almost twenty-five years older than Lin- 
coln, and in every respect a dangerous antagonist. An- 
other thing which operated much to Lincoln's disadvantage 
was the report circulated by Cartwright's friends with re- 
spect to Lincoln's religious views. He was charged with 
the grave offence of infidelity, and sentiments which he 
was reported to have expressed with reference to the in- 
spiration of the Bible were given the campaign varnish 
and passed from hand to hand. His slighting allusion 
expressed in the address at the Presbyterian Church be- 
fore the Washington Temperance Society, February 22d 
four years before, to the insincerity of the Christian peo- 
ple was not forgotten. It, too, played its part; but all 
these opposing circumstances were of no avail. Cart- 
22 Angle, New Letters and Papers of Lincoln, pp. 22-28. 


wright was personally very popular, but it was plain the 
people of the Springfield district wanted no preacher to 
represent them in Congress. They believed in an absolute 
separation of Church and State. The election, therefore, 
of such a man as Cartwright would not, to their way of 
thinking, tend to promote such a result. I was enthu- 
siastic and active in Lincoln's interest myself. The very 
thought of my associate's becoming a member of Con- 
gress was a great stimulus to my self-importance. Many 
other friends in and around Springfield were equally as 
vigilant, and, in the language of another, "long before the 
contest closed we snuffed approaching victqry in the air." 
Our laborious efforts met with a suitable reward. Lin- 
coln was elected by a majority of 1511 in the district, a 
larger vote than Clay's two years before, which was only 
914. In Sangamon County his majority was 690, and ex- 
ceeded that of any of his predecessors on the Whig ticket, / 
commencing with Stuart in 1834 and continuing on down / 
to the days of Yates in 1852. — ' 

Before Lincoln's departure for Washington to enter on 
his duties as a member of Congress, the Mexican war had 
begun. The volunteers had gone forward, and at the 
head of the regiments from Illinois some of the bravest 
men and the best legal talent in Springfield had marched. 
Hardin, Baker, Bissell, and even the dramatic Shields had 
enlisted. The issues of the war and the manner of its 
prosecution were in every man's mouth. Naturally, there- 
fore, a Congressman-elect would be expected to publish 
his views and define his position early in the day. Al- 
though, in common with the Whig party, opposing the 
declaration of war, Lincoln, now that hostilities had com- 
menced, urged a vigorous prosecution. He admonished us 
all to permit our Government to suffer no dishonor, and 
to stand by the flag till peace came and came honorably to 
us. He declared these sentiments in a speech at a public 
meeting in Springfield, May 29, 1847. In the following 
December he took his seat in Congress. He was the only 
Whig from Illinois. His colleagues in the Illinois dele- 
gation were John A. McClernand, O. B. Ficklin, William 


A. Richardson, Thomas J. Turner, Robert Smith, and 
John Wentworth. In the Senate Douglas had made his 
appearance for the first time. The Little Giant is always 
in sight! Robert C. Winthrop, of Massachusetts, was 
chosen Speaker. John Quincy Adams, Horace Mann, 
Caleb Smith, Alexander H. Stephens, Robert Toombs, 
Howell Cobb, and Andrew Johnson were important mem- 
bers of the House. With many of these the newly elected 
member from Illinois was destined to sustain another 
and far different relation. 

On the 5th of December, the day before the House 
organized, Lincoln wrote me a letter about our fee in a 
law-suit and reported the result of the Whig caucus the 
night before. On the 13th he wrote again: "Dear Wil- 
liam : — Your letter, advising me of the receipt of our fee 
in the bank case, is just received, and I don't expect to 
hear another as good a piece of news from Springfield 
while I am away." He then directed me from the proceeds 
of this fee to pay a debt at the bank, and out of the bal- 
ance left to settle sundry dry-goods and grocery bills. 
The modest tone of the last paragraph is its most striking 
feature. "As you are all so anxious for me to distinguish 
myself/' he said, "I have concluded to do so before long." 
January 8 he writes: "As to speech-making, by way of 
getting the hang of the House, I made a little speech two 
or three days ago on a post-office question of no general 
interest. I find speaking here and elsewhere about the 
same thing. I was about as badly scared, and no worse, 
as I am when I speak in court. I expect to make one 
within a week or two in which I hope to succeed well 
enough to wish you to see it." Meanwhile, in recognition 
of the assurances I had sent him from friends who de- 
sired to approve his course by a reelection, he says : "It 
is very pleasant to me to learn from you that there are 
some who desire that I should be reelected. I most 
heartily thank them for the kind partiality, and I can say, 
as Mr. Clay said of the annexation of Texas, that, 'per- 
sonally, I would not object' to a reelection, although I 
thought at the time, and still think, it would be quite as 


well for me to return to the law at the end of a single 
term. I made the declaration that I would not be a candi- 
date again, more from a wish to deal fairly with others, 
to keep peace among our friends, and to keep the district 
from going to the enemy, than for any cause personal to 
myself, so that if it should happen that nobody else wishes 
to be elected I could not refuse the people the right of 
sending me again. But to enter myself as a competitor 
of others, or to authorize any one so to enter me, is 
what my word and honor forbid." 

His announcement of a willingness to accept a reelec- 
tion if tendered him by the people was altogether unneces- 
sary, for within a few days after this letter was written 
his constituents began to manifest symptoms of grave 
disapproval of his course on the Mexican war question. 
His position on this subject was evidenced by certain reso- 
lutions offered by him in the House three weeks before. 
These latter were called the "Spot Resolutions," and they 
and the speech which followed on the 12th of January in 
support of them not only sealed Lincoln's doom as a Con- 
gressman, but in my opinion, lost the district to.the Whigs 
in 1848, when Judge Logan had succeeded at last in ob- 
taining the nomination. 

Although differing with the President as to the justice 
or even propriety of a war with Mexico, Lincoln was not 
unwilling to vote, and with the majority of his party did 
vote, the supplies necessary to carry it on. He did this, 
however, with great reluctance, protesting all the while 
that "the war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally 
begun by the President." The "Spot Resolutions," which 
served as a text for his speech on the 12th of January, 
and which caused such unwonted annoyance in the ranks 
of his constituents, were a series following a preamble 
loaded with quotations from the President's messages. 
These resolutions requested the President to inform the 
House: "First. Whether the spot on which the blood of 
our citizens was shed as in his messages declared was 
or was not within the territory of Spain, at least after the 
treaty of 1819, until the Mexican revolution. Second. 


Whether that spot is or is not within the territory which 
was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary govern- 
ment of Mexico. Third. Whether that spot is or is not 
within a settlement of people, which settlement has ex- 
isted ever since long before the Texas revolution, and 
until its inhabitants fled before the approach of the United 
States army." There were eight of these interrogatories, 
but it is only necessary to reproduce the three which fore- 
shadow the position Lincoln was then intending to as- 
sume. On the 12th of January, as before stated, he 
followed them up with a carefully prepared and well 
arranged speech, in which he made a severe arraignment 
of President Polk and justified the pertinence and pro- 
priety of the inquiries he had a few days before addressed 
to him. The speech is too long for insertion here. It 
was constructed much after the manner of a legal argu- 
ment. Reviewing the evidence furnished by the President 
in his various messages, he undertook to "smoke him out" 
with this : "Let the President answer the interrogatories 
I proposed, as before mentioned, or other similar ones. 
Let him answer fully, fairly, candidly. Let him answer 
with facts, not with arguments. Let hijnijxmember^Jie^ 
gijs^where Washington sat ;_and_sp remember in^^eL- him 
answer as Washington would answer . As a nation should 
not, and the Almighty will not, be evaded, so let him at- 
tempt no evasion, no equivocation. And if, so answering, 
he can show the soil was ours where the first blood of the 
war was shed ; that it was not within an inhabited country, 
or if within such; that the inhabitants had submitted 
themselves to the civil authority of Texas or of the United 
States ; and that the same is true of the site of Fort 
Brown, then I am with him for his justification . . . But 
if he cannot or will not do this — if, on any pretence, or no 
pretence, he shall refuse or omit it — then I shall be fully 
convinced of what I more than suspect already — that he is 
deeply conscious of being in the wrong; that he feels the 
blood of this war, like the blood of Abel, is crying to 
Heaven against him ; that he ordered General Taylor into 
the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement purposely to 


bring on a war; that, originally having some strong mo- 
tive — which I will not now stop to give my opinion con- 
cerning — to involve the countries in a war, and trusting 
to escape scrutiny by fixing the public gaze upon the ex- 
ceeding brightness of military glory, — that attractive rain- 
bow that rises in showers of blood, that serpent's eye that 
charms to destroy, — he plunged into it, and has swept on 
and on, till disappointed in his calculation of the ease with 
which Mexico might be subdued, he now finds himself 
he knows not where. He is aj^e wilder ed, confounded, and 
miserably perplexed man. *pod grant that he may be able 
to show that there is not something about his conscience 
more painful than all his mental perplexity." This speech, 
however clear may have been its reasoning, however rich 
in illustration, in restrained and burning earnestness, yet 
was unsuccessful in "smoking out" the President. He 
remained within the official seclusion his position gave 
him, and declined to answer. 23 In fact it is doubtless true 
that Lincoln anticipated no response, but simply took that 
means of defining clearly his own position. 

On the 19th inst., having occasion to write me with ref- 
erence to a note with which one of our clients, one Louis 
Candler, had been "annoying" him, "not the least of which 
annoyance," he complains, "is his cursed unreadable and 
ungodly handwriting," he adds a line, in which with notice- 
able modesty he informs me: "I have made a speech, a 
copy of which I send you by mail." He doubtless felt he 
was taking rather advanced and perhaps questionable 
ground. And so he was, for very soon after, murmurs 
of dissatisfaction began to run through the Whig ranks. 
I did not, as some of Lincoln's biographers would have 
their readers believe, inaugurate this feeling of dissatis- 
faction. On the contrary, as the law partner of the Con- 
gressman, and as his ardent admirer, I discouraged the 
defection all I could. Still, when I listened to the com- 
ments of his friends everywhere after the delivery of 
his speech, I felt that he had made a mistake. I therefore 

23 Not a single mention of Lincoln is to be found in Polk's 
voluminous diary. 


wrote him to that effect, at the same time giving him my 
own views, which I knew were in full accord with the 
views of his Whig constituents. My argument in sub- 
stance was: That the President of the United States is 
Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy; that as 
such commander it was his duty, in the absence of Con- 
gress, if the country was about to be invaded and armies 
were organized in Mexico for that purpose, to go — if 
necessary — into the very heart of Mexico and prevent 
the invasion. I argued further that it would be a crime 
in the Executive to let the country be invaded in the least 
degree. The action of the President was a necessity, and 
under a similar necessity years afterward Mr. Lincoln 
himself emancipated the slaves, although he had no special 
power under the Constitution to do so. In later days, in 
what is called the Hodges letter, concerning the freedom 
of the slaves, he used this language: 

"I felt that measures otherwise unconstitutional might 
become lawful by becoming indispensable." 

Briefly stated, that was the strain of my argument. My 
judgment was formed on the law of nations and of war. 
If the facts were as I believed them, and my premises cor- 
rect, then I assumed that the President's acts became 
lawful by becoming indispensable. 

February 1 he wrote me, "Dear William: You fear 
that you and I disagree about the war. I regret this, not 
because of any fear we shall remain disagreed after you 
have read this letter, but because if you misunderstand I 
fear other good friends may also." 

Speaking of his vote in favor of the amendment to the 
supply bill proposed by George Ashmun, of Massachu- 
setts, he continues: 

"That vote affirms that the war was unnecessarily and un- 
constitutionally commenced by the President ; and I will stake 
my life that if you had been in my place you would have voted 
just as I did. Would you have voted what you felt and knew 
to be a lie? I know you would not. Would you have gone 
out of the House,— skulked the vote? I expect not. If you 
had skulked one vote you would have had to skulk many more 


before the close of the session. Richardson's resolutions, in- 
troduced before I made any move or gave any vote upon the 
subject, make the direct question of the justice of the war; 
so that no man can be silent if he would. You are compelled 
to speak ; and your only alternative is to tell the truth or tell a 
lie. I cannot doubt which you would do . . . I do not mean 
this letter for the public, but for you. Before it reaches you 
you will have seen and read my pamphlet speech and per- 
haps have been scared anew by it. After you get over your 
scare read it over again, sentence by sentence, and tell me 
honestly what you think of it. I condensed all I could for 
fear of being cut off by the hour rule ; and when I got through 
I had spoken but forty-five minutes. 

"Yours forever, 

"A. Lincoln." 

I digress from the Mexican war subject long enough 
to insert, because in the order of time it belongs here, a 
characteristic letter which he wrote me regarding a man 
who was destined at a later date to play a far different 
role in the national drama. Here it is: 

"Washington, Feb. 2, 1848. 
"Dear William : 

"I just take up my pen to say that Mr. Stephens, of Georgia, 
a little, slim, pale-faced, consumptive man, with a voice like 
Logan's, has just concluded the very best speech of an hour's 
length I ever heard. My old, withered, dry eyes are full of 
tears yet. If he writes it out anything like he delivered it 
our people shall see a good many copies of it. 

"Yours truly, 

"A. Lincoln." 
To Wm. H. Herndon, Esq. 

February 15 he wrote me again in criticism of the 
President's invasion of foreign soil. He still believed the 
Executive had exceeded the limit of his authority. "The 
provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power 
to Congress," he insists, "was dictated, as I understand it, 
by the following reasons ; kings had always been involving 
and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending gen- 


erally, if not always, that the good of the people was the 
object. This, our convention understood to be the most 
oppressive of all kingly oppressions ; and they resolved to 
so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold 
the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your 
view destroys the whole matter, and places our President 
where kings have always stood." 

In June the Whigs met in national convention at Phila- 
delphia to nominate a candidate for President. Lincoln 
attended as a delegate. He advocated the nomination of 
Taylor because of his belief that he could be elected, and 
was correspondingly averse to Clay because of the latter's 
signal defeat in 1844. In a letter from Washington a 
few days after the convention he predicts the election of 
"Old Rough." He says : "In my opinion we shall have a 
most overwhelming glorious triumph. One unmistakable 
sign is that all the odds and ends are with us — Barn- 
burners, Native Americans, Tyler-men, disappointed office- 
seeking Locofocos, and the Lord knows what not . . . 
Taylor's nomination takes the Locos on the blind side. It 
turns the war thunder against them. The war is now to 
them the gallows of Haman, which they built for us and 
on which they are doomed to be hanged themselves." 

Meanwhile, in spite of the hopeful view Lincoln seemed 
to take of the prospect, things in his own district were in 
exceedingly bad repair. I could not refrain from appris- 
ing him of the extensive defections from the party 
ranks, and the injury his course was doing him. My 
object in thus writing to him was not to threaten him. 
Lincoln was not a man who could be successfully threat- 
ened ; one had to approach him from a different direction. 
I warned him of public disappointment over his course, 
and I earnestly desired to prevent him from committing 
what I believed to be political suicide. June 22d he an- 
swered a letter I had written him on the 15th. He had 
just returned from a Whig caucus held in relation to the 
coming Presidential election. "The whole field of the 
nation was scanned ; all is high hope and confidence," he 


said exultingly. "Illinois is expected to better her con- 
dition in this race. Under these circumstances judge how 
heartrending it was to come to my room and find and 
read your discouraging letter of the 15th." But still he 
does not despair. "Now, as to the young men," he says, 
"you must not wait to be brought forward by the older 
men. For instance, do you suppose that I should ever 
have got into notice if I had waited to be hunted up and 
pushed forward by older men? You young men get to- 
gether and form a Rough and Ready club, and have 
regular meetings and speeches. Take in everybody that 
you can get . . . As you go along gather up all the 
shrewd, wild boys about town, whether just of age or a 
little under age. Let every one play the part he can play 
best — some speak, some sing, and all halloo. Your meet- 
ings will be of evenings ; the older men and the women 
will go to hear you, so that it will not only contribute to 
the election of 'Old Zack,' but will be an interesting pas- 
time and improving to the faculties of all engaged." He 
was evidently endeavoring through me to rouse up all 
the enthusiasm among the youth of Springfield possible 
under the circumstances. But I was disposed to take a 
dispirited view of the situation, and therefore was not 
easily warmed up. I felt at this time, somewhat in advance 
of its occurrence, the death throes of the Whig party. I 
did not conceal my suspicions, and one of the Springfield 
papers gave my sentiments liberal quotation in its columns. 
I felt gloomy over the prospect, and cut out these news- 
paper slips and sent them to Lincoln. Accompanying 
these I wrote him a letter equally melancholy in tone, 
in which among other things I reflected severely on 
the stubbornness and bad judgment of the old fossils in 
the party, who were constantly holding the young men 
back. This brought from him a letter, July 10, 1848, 
which is so clearly Lincolnian and so full of plain philos- 
ophy, that I copy it in full. Not the least singular of 
all is his allusion to himself as an old man, although he 
had scarcely passed his thirty-ninth year. 


"Washington, July 10, 1848. 
''Dear William : 

"Your letter covering- the newspaper slips was received last 
night. The subject of that letter is exceedingly painful to 
me, and I cannot but think there is some mistake in your im- 
pression of the motives of the old men. I suppose I am now 
one of the old men; and I declare on my veracity, which I 
think is good with you, that nothing could afford me more 
satisfaction than to learn that you and others of my young 
friends at home were doing battle in the contest and endearing 
themselves to the people and taking a stand far above any I 
have ever been able to reach in their admiration. I cannot 
conceive that other men feel differently. Of course I cannot 
demonstrate what I say ; but I was young once, and I am sure 
I was never ungenerously thrust back. I hardly know what 
to say. The way for a young man to rise is to improve him- 
self every way he can, never suspecting that anybody wishes 
to hinder him. Allow me to assure you that suspicion and 
jealousy never did help any man in any situation. There may 
sometimes be ungenerous attempts to keep a young man 
down; and they will succeed, too, if he allows his mind to be 
diverted from its true channel to brood over the attempted in- 
jury. Cast about and see if this feeling has not injured every 
person you have ever known to fall into it. 

"Now, in what I have said I am sure you will suspect 
nothing but sincere friendship. I would save you from a fatal 
error. You have been a laborious, studious young man. You 
are far better informed on almost all subjects than I ever have 
been. You cannot fail in any laudable object unless you allow 
your mind to be improperly directed. I have some the ad- 
vantage of you in the world's experience merely by being 
older; and it is this that induces me to advise. 

"Your friend, as ever, 

"A. Lincoln." 

Before the close of the Congressional session he made 
two more speeches. One of these, which he hastened to 
send home in pamphlet form, and which he supposes 
"nobody will read," was devoted to the familiar subject 
of internal improvements, and deserves only passing men- 
tion. The other, delivered on the 27th of July, was in its 
way a masterpiece; and it is no stretch of the truth to 


say that while intended simply as a campaign document 
and devoid of any effort at classic oratory, it was, perhaps, 
one of the best speeches of the session. It is too extended 
for insertion here without abridgment ; but one who reads 
it will lay it down convinced that Lincoln's ascendency for 
a quarter of a century among the political spirits in Illi- 
nois was by no means an accident ; neither will the reader 
wonder that Douglas, with all his forensic ability, averted, 
as long as he could, a contest with a man whose plain, 
analytical reasoning was not less potent than his mingled 
drollery and caricature were effective. The speech in the 
main is an arraignment of General Cass, the Democratic 
candidate for President, who had already achieved great 
renown in the political world, principally on account of 
his career as a soldier in the war of 1812, and is a tri- 
umphant vindication of his Whig opponent, General 
Taylor, who seemed to have had a less extensive knowl- 
edge of civil than of military affairs, and was discreetly 
silent about both. Lincoln caricatured the military pre- 
tentions of the Democratic candidate in picturesque style. 
This latter section of the speech has heretofore been 
omitted by most of Mr. Lincoln's biographers because of 
its glaring inappropriateness as a Congressional effort. I 
have always failed to see wherein its comparison with 
scores of others delivered in the halls of Congress since 
that time could in any way detract from the fame of Mr. 
Lincoln, and I therefore reproduce it here: 

"But the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Iverson] further 
says, we have deserted all our principles, and taken shelter 
under General Taylor's military coat-tail; and he seems to 
think this is exceedingly degrading-. Well, as his faith is, so 
be it unto him. But can he remember no other military coat- 
tail, under which a certain other party have been sheltering 
for near a quarter of a century ? Has he no acquaintance with 
the ample military coat-tail of General Jackson? Does he 
not know that his own party have run the last five Presidential 
races under that coat-tail? and that they are now running the 
sixth under the same cover? Yes, sir, that coat-tail was used 
not only for General Jackson himself, but has been clung to 


with the grip of death by every Democratic candidate since. 
You have never ventured, and dare not now venture from un- 
der it. Your campaign papers have constantly been 'Old 
Hickory's/ with rude likeness of the old general upon them; 
hickory poles and hickory brooms your never-ending emblems. 
Mr. Polk himself was 'Young Hickory/ 'Little Hickory/ or 
something so ; and even now your campaign paper here is pro- 
claiming that Cass and Butler are of the 'Hickory stripe.' 
No, sir, you dare not give it up. Like a horde of hungry 
ticks, you have stuck to the tail of the Hermitage lion to the 
end of his life; and you are still sticking to it, and drawing a 
loathsome sustenance from it, after he is dead. A fellow once 
advertised that he had made a discovery by which he could 
make a new man out of an old man and have enough of the 
stuff left to make a little yellow dog. Just such a discovery 
has General Jackson's popularity been to you. You not only 
twice made Presidents of him out of it, but you have enough 
of the stuff left to make Presidents of several comparatively 
small men since; and it is your chief reliance now to make 
still another. 

"Mr. Speaker, old horses and military coat-tails, or tails of 
any sort, are not figures of speech such as I would be the first 
to introduce into discussion here; but as the gentleman from 
Georgia has thought fit to introduce them, he and you are 
welcome to all you have made or can make by them. If you 
have any more old horses, trot them out; any more tails, just 
cock them and come at us. I repeat, I would not introduce 
this mode of discussion here; but I wish gentlemen on the 
other side to understand that the use of degrading figures is 
a game at which they may find themselves unable to take all 
the winnings. [A voice 'No, we give it up'] Aye! you give 
it up, and well you may ; but for a very different reason from 
that which you would have us understand. The point — the 
power to hurt — of all figures consists in the truthfulness of 
their application; and, understanding this, you may well give 
it up. They are weapons which hit you, but miss us. 

"But in my hurry I was very near closing on this subject 
of the military tails before I was done with it. There is one 
entire article of the sort I have not discussed yet ; I mean the 
military tail you Democrats are now engaged in dovetailing 
on to the great Michigander. Yes, sir, all his biographers 
(and they are legion) have him in hand, tying him to a mili- 
tary tail, like so many mischievous boys tying a dog to a 


bladder of beans. True, the material is very limited, but they 
are at it might and main. He invaded Canada without resist- 
ance, and he outvaded it without pursuit. As he did both un- 
der orders, I suppose there was to him neither credit nor dis- 
credit ; but they are made to constitute a large part of the tail. 
He was not at Hull's surrender, but he was close by; he was 
volunteer aid to General Harrison on the day of the battle of 
the Thames; and as you said in 1840 Harrison was picking 
whortleberries two miles off while the battle was fought I sup- 
pose it is a just conclusion with you to say Cass was aiding 
Harrison to pick whortleberries. This is about all, except the 
mooted question of the broken sword. Some authors say he 
broke it; some say he threw it away; and some others, who 
ought to know, say nothing about it. Perhaps it would be a 
fair historical compromise to say if he did not break it, he did 
not do anything else with it. 

"By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know I am a military 
hero ? Yes, sir, in the days of the Black Hawk war, I fought, 
bled, and came away. Speaking of General Cass's career, re- 
minds me of my own. I was not at Stillman's defeat, but I 
was about as near it as Cass was to Hull's surrender ; and, like 
him, I saw the place very soon afterward. It is quite certain 
I did not break my sword, for I had none to break, but I bent 
my musket pretty badly on one occasion. If Cass broke his 
sword, the idea is, he broke it in desperation ; I bent the musket 
by accident. If General Cass went in advance of me picking 
whortleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges upon the 
wild onions. If he saw any live fighting Indians, it was more 
than I did, but I had a good many bloody struggles with the 
mosquitos ; and, although I never fainted from loss of blood, I 
can truly say I was often very hungry. Mr. Speaker, if ever 
I should conclude to doff" whatever our Democratic friends 
may suppose there is of black-cockade Federalism about me, 
and, thereupon they shall take me up as their candidate for the 
Presidency, I protest that they shall not make fun of me as 
they have of General Cass by attempting to write me into a 
military hero." 

After the adjournment of Congress on the 14th of 
August, Lincoln went through New York and some of 
the New England States making a number of speeches 
for Taylor, none of which, owing to the limited facilities 
attending newspaper reporting in that day, have been pre- 


served. He returned to Illinois before the close of the 
canvass and continued his efforts on the stump till after 
the election. 

[Lincoln's tour through New England was probably 
an attempt to stop the serious inroads which the new Free 
Soil party, under the leadership of Van Buren, Sumner 
and Charles Francis Adams, was making in the old Whig 
stronghold. He made his first speech at Worcester, Mass- 
achusetts, on September 12, the evening before the Whig 
State Convention assembled there. He remained for the 
convention, but took no part in its proceedings. After- 
ward he spoke at Chelsea, Dedham, Cambridge and Lowell, 
and concluded his tour with an address in Boston on Sep- 
tember 22. 

Herndon was not aware that Lincoln's speech at 
Worcester had been reported with reasonable complete- 
ness in the Boston Advertiser. The newspaper report 
shows that Lincoln singled out the Free Soilers for par- 
ticular attention. As to slavery, he said, "the people of 
Illinois agreed entirely with the people of Massachusetts 
on this subject, except perhaps that they did not keep so 
constantly thinking about it. All agreed that slavery was 
an evil, but that we were not responsible for it and can- 
not affect it in states of this Union where we do not live. 
But, the question of the extension of slavery to new ter- 
ritories of this country, is a part of our responsibility 
and care, and is under our control." 

Lincoln went on to claim that in opposing slavery ex- 
tension the Whigs were far more effective than the Free 
Soilers. The election of Van Buren was impossible, 
therefore the Free Soilers were really contributing to the 
election of Cass, under whom the extension of slavery 
would meet no check. "General Taylor, he confidently 
believed, would not encourage it, and would not prohibit its 

The Advertiser, in accordance with the partisan custom, 
described Lincoln's speech as "truly masterly and convinc- 

At the second session of Congress, which began in 


December, he was less conspicuous than before. The few 
weeks spent with his constituents had perhaps taught him 
that in order to succeed as a Congressman it is not always 
the most politic thing to tell the truth because it is the 
truth, or to do right because it is right. With the open- 
ing of Congress, by virtue of the election of Taylor, the 
Whigs obtained the ascendency in the control of govern- 
mental machinery. He attended to the duties of the Con- 
gressional office diligently and with becoming modesty. 
He answered the letters of his constituents, sent them 
their public documents, and looked after their pension 
claims. His only public act of any moment was a bill 
looking to the emancipation of the slaves in the District 
of Columbia. He interested Joshua R. Giddings and others 
of equally as pronounced anti-slavery views in the sub- 
ject, but his bill eventually found a lodgment on "the 
table," where it was carefully but promptly laid by a vote 
of the House. 

[Slavery was the paramount subject of discussion dur- 
ing the second session of the thirtieth Congress, and the 
abolition of that institution in the District of Columbia 
was earnestly urged. It was as an amendment to a resolu- 
tion instructing the Committee on the District of Colum- 
bia to report a bill abolishing slavery there that Lincoln, 
on January 10, 1849, read his own bill for accomplishing 
that purpose. 

Lincoln sought to do away with slavery in the District 
by a gradual process. Slaves held there were to continue 
in servitude at their masters' will, but if any owner wished 
to emancipate a slave he was to be compensated from 
the national treasury, the amount to be determined by a 
board composed of the President, Secretary of State and 
Secretary of the Treasury. Children born of slave mothers 
within the District after January 1, 1850 were ultimately 
to be free. Owners of the mothers were to support and 
educate them, and they were obligated to serve as appren- 
tices until a fixed age. Thus, in time, slavery would dis- 
appear. Public officials, however, were to be permitted 
to bring with them and hold in slavery an adequate num- 


ber of household servants ; and provision was made for 
the return of fugitive slaves who should take refuge in 
the District. The final clause in the bill provided for an 
election at which the measure might be voted upon by 
all citizens of the District over twenty-one years of age 
who had lived there one year or more. If a majority fav- 
ored it, the President was to put it in force at once by 

When he had finished reading his bill, Lincoln stated 
that it had been submitted to and approved by "about fif- 
teen of the leading citizens of the District of Columbia," 
but he refused to give their names, and no more atten- 
tion was paid to his own measure. On January 16 he 
gave notice of a motion for leave to introduce it as a bill, 
but when the session ended on March 4, 1849 he had not 
done so. 24 ] 

Meanwhile, being chargeable with the distribution of 
official patronage, he began to flounder about in explana- 
tion of his action in a sea of seemingly endless perplex- 
ities. His recommendation of the appointment of T. R, 
King to be Register or Receiver of the Land Office had 
produced no little discord among the other aspirants for 
the place. He wrote to a friend who endorsed and urged 
the appointment, "either to admit it is wrong, or come 
forward and sustain him." He then transmits to this 
same friend a scrap of paper — probably a few lines ap- 
proving the selection of King — which is to be copied in the 
friend's own handwriting. "Get everybody," he insists, 
"(not three or four, but three or four hundred) to sign 
it, and then send it to me. Also have six, eight, or ten 
of our best known Whig friends to write me additional 
letters, stating the truth in this matter as they understood 
it. Don't neglect or delay in the matter. I understand," 
he continues, "information of an indictment having been 
found against him three years ago for gaming or keeping 
a gaming house has been sent to the Department." He 
then closes with the comforting assurance: "I shall try 
to take care of it at the Department till your action can 
24 See Beveridge, I., pp. 480 et seq. 


be had and forwarded on." And still people insist that 
Mr. Lincoln was such a guileless man and so free from 
the politician's sagacity! 

In June I wrote him regarding the case of one Walter 
Davis, who was soured and disappointed because Lincoln 
had overlooked him in his recommendation for the Spring- 
field post-office. "There must be some mistake," he re- 
sponds on the 5th, "about Walter Davis saying I prom- 
ised him the post-office. I did not so promise him. I did 
tell him that if the distribution of the offices should fall into 
my hands he should have something ; and if I shall be con- 
vinced he has said any more than this I shall be disap- 
pointed. I said this much to him because, as I under- 
stand, he is of good character, is one of the young men, 
is of the mechanics, is always faithful and never trouble- 
some, a Whig, and is poor, with the support of a widow- 
mother thrown almost exclusively on him by the death of 
his brother. If these are wrong reasons then I have been 
wrong; but I have certainly not been selfish in it, be- 
cause in my greatest need of friends he was against me 
and for Baker." 

Judge Logan's defeat in 1848 left Lincoln still in a meas- 
ure in charge of the patronage in his district. After his 
term in Congress expired the "wriggle and struggle" for 
office continued ; and he was often appealed to for his 
influence in obtaining, as he termed it, "a way to live 
without work." Occasionally, when hard pressed, he re- 
torted with bitter sarcasm. I append a letter written in 
this vein to a gentleman still living in central Illinois, who, 
I suppose, would prefer that his name should be with- 
held i 25 

"Springfield, Dec. 15, 1849. 

" Esq. 

"Dear Sir: 

"On my return from Kentucky I found your letter of the 

7th of November, and have delayed answering it till now for 

the reason I now briefly state. From the beginning of our 

acquaintance I had felt the greatest kindness for you and had 

25 The man was George W. Rives, of Paris, Illinois. 


supposed it was reciprocated on your part. Last summer, 
under circumstances which I mentioned to you, I was pain- 
fully constrained to withhold a recommendation which you de- 
sired, and shortly afterwards I learned, in such a way as to 
believe it, that you were indulging- in open abuse of me. Of 
course my feelings were wounded. On receiving your last 
letter the question occurred whether you were attempting to 
use me at the same time you would injure me, or whether you 
might not have been misrepresented to me. If the former, I 
ought not to answer you ; if the latter, I ought, and so I have 
remained in suspense. I now enclose you the letter, which 
you may use if you see fit. 

"Yours, etc, 

"A. Lincoln." 

No doubt the man, when Lincoln declined at first to 
recommend him, did resort to more or less abuse. That 
would have been natural, especially with an unsuccessful 
and disappointed office-seeker. I am inclined to the opin- 
ion, and a careful reading of the letter will warrant it, 
that Lincoln believed him guilty. If the recommendation 
which Lincoln, after so much reluctance, gave was ever 
used to further the applicant's cause I do not know it. 

With the close of Lincoln's Congressional career he 
drops out of sight as a political factor, and for the next 
few years we take him up in another capacity. He did 
not solicit or contend for a renomination to Congress, and 
such was the unfortunate result of his position on public 
questions that it is doubtful if he could have succeeded had 
he done so. 



Edwards mansion we hear but little of them as a married 
couple till the spring of 1843, when the husband writes 
to his friend Speed, who had been joined to his "black- 
eyed Fanny" a little over a year, with regard to his life 
as a married man. "Are you possessing houses and lands," 
he writes, "and oxen and asses and men-servants and 
maid-servants, and begetting sons and daughters ? We are 
not keeping house, but boarding at the Globe Tavern, 
which is very well kept now by a widow lady of the name 
of Beck. Our room (the same Dr. Wallace occupied 
there) and boarding only costs us four dollars a week." 
Gaining a livelihood was slow and discouraging business 
with him, for we find him in another letter apologizing 
for his failure to visit Kentucky, "because," he says, "1^ 
am so poor and make so little headway in the world that 
I drop back in a month of idleness as much as I gain in 
a year's sowing." But by dint of untiring efforts and the 
recognition of influential friends he managed through rare 
frugality to move along. In his struggles, both in the law 
and for political advancement, his wife shared in his sacri- 
fices. She was a plucky little woman, and in fact endowed 
with a more restless ambition than he. She was gifted with 
a rare insight into the motives that actuate mankind, and 
there is no doubt that much of Lincoln's success was in a 
measure attributable to her acuteness and the stimulus 
of her influence. His election to Congress within four 
years after their marriage afforded her extreme gratifica- 
tion. She loved power and prominence, and when occa- 
sionally she came down to our office, it seemed to me then 


that she was inordinately proud of her tall and ungainly 
husband. She saw in him bright prospects ahead, and his 
every move was watched by her with the closest interest. 
If to other persons he seemed homely, to her he was the 
embodiment of noble manhood, and each succeeding day 
impressed upon her the wisdom of her choice of Lincoln 
over Douglas — if in reality she ever seriously accepted the 
latter 's attentions. "Mr. Lincoln may not be as handsome 
a figure," she said one day in the office during her hus- 
band's absence, when the conversation turned on Douglas, 
"but the people are perhaps not aware that his heart is as 
large as his arms are long." 

Mrs. Lincoln accompanied her husband to Washington 
and remained during one session of Congress. While there 
they boarded at the same house with Joshua R. Giddings, 
and when in 1856 the valiant old Abolitionist came to take 
part in the canvass in Illinois, he early sought out Lincoln, 
with whom he had been so favorably impressed several 
years before. On his way home from Congress Lincoln 
came by way of Niagara Falls and down Lake Erie to 
Toledo or Detroit. It happened that, some time after, I 
went to New York and also returned by way of Niagara 
Falls. In the office, a few days after my return, I was 
endeavoring to entertain my partner with an account of my 
trip, and among other things described the Falls. In the 
attempt I indulged in a good deal of imagery. As I 
warmed up with the subject my descriptive powers ex- 
panded accordingly. The mad rush of water, the roar, the 
rapids, and the rainbow furnished me with an abundance 
of material for a stirring and impressive picture. The 
recollection of the gigantic and awe-inspiring scene stimu- 
lated my exuberant powers to the highest pitch. After 
well-nigh exhausting myself in the effort I turned to Lin- 
coln for his opinion. "What," I inquired, "made the deep- 
est impression on you when you stood in the presence of 
the great natural wonder ?" I shall never forget his answer, 
because it in a very characteristic way illustrates how he 
looked at everything. "The thing that struck me most 


forcibly when I saw the Falls," he responded, "was, where 
in the world did all that water come from ?" He had no 
eye for the magnificence and grandeur of the scene, for the 
rapids, the mist, the angry waters, and the roar of the 
whirlpool, but his mind, working in its accustomed channel, 
heedless of beauty or awe, followed irresistibly back to the 
first cause. It was in this light he viewed every question. 
However great the verbal foliage that concealed the naked- 
ness of a good idea Lincoln stripped it all down till he 
could see clear the way between cause and effect. If there 
was any secret in his power this surely was it. 

After seeing Niagara Falls he continued his journey 
homeward. At some point on the way, the vessel on which 
he had taken passage stranded on a sand bar. The captain 
ordered the hands to collect all the loose planks, empty 
barrels and boxes and force them under the sides of the 
boat. These empty casks were used to buoy it up. After 
forcing enough of them under the vessel she lifted gradu- 
ally and at last swung clear of the opposing sand bar. Lin- 
coln had watched this operation very intently. It no doubt 
carried him back to the days of his navigation on the tur- 
bulent Sangamon, when he and John Hanks had rendered 
similar service at New Salem dam to their employer the 
volatile Offuj/Continual thinking on the subject of lift- 
ing vessels over sand bars and other obstructions in the 
water suggested to him the idea of inventing an apparatus 
for the purpose. Using the principle involved in the oper- 
ation he had just witnessed, his plan was to attach a kind 
of bellows on each side of the hull of the craft just below 
the water line, and by an odd system of ropes and pulleys, 
whenever the keel grated on the sand these bellows were to 
be filled with air, and thus buoyed up, the vessel was ex- 
pected to float clear of the shoal. On reaching home he at 
once set to work to demonstrate the feasibility of his plan. 
Walter Davis, a mechanic having a shop near our office, 
granted him the use of his tools, and likewise assisted him 
in making the model of a miniature vessel with the arrange- 
ment as above described. Lincoln manifested ardent in- 


terest in it. Occasionally he would bring the model in the 
office, and while whittling on it would descant on its merits 
and the revolution it was destined to work in steamboat 
navigation. Although I regarded the thing as impractica- 
ble I said nothing, probably out of respect for Lincoln's 
well-known reputation as a boatman. The model was sent 
or taken by him to Washington, where a patent was issued, 
but the invention was never applied to any vessel, so far as 
I ever learned, and the threatened revolution in steamboat 
architecture and navigation never came to pass. The 
model still reposes in undisturbed slumber on the shelves 
m the Patent Office, and is the only evidence now existing 
of Lincoln's success as an inventor. 

Following is a copy of Lincoln's application for the 
patent on his "Improved Method of Lifting Vessels Over 
Shoals": "What I claim as my invention, and desire to 
secure by letters patent, is the combination of expansible 
buoyant chambers placed at the sides of a vessel with the 
main shaft or shafts by means of the sliding spars, which 
pass down through the buoyant chambers and are made 
fast to their bottoms and the series of ropes and pulleys or 
their equivalents in such a manner that by turning the main 
shaft or shafts in one direction the buoyant chambers will 
be forced downwards into the water, and at the same time 
expanded and filled with air for buoying up the vessel by 
the displacement of water, and by turning the shafts in an 
opposite direction the buoyant chambers will be contracted 
into a small space and secured against injury. A. Lincoln." 

Shortly before the close of his term in Congress he 
appears in a new role. Having failed of a re-election he 
became an applicant for the office of Commissioner of the 
General Land Office. He had been urged to this step by 
many of his Whig friends in Illinois, but he was so hedged 
about with other aspirants from his own State that he soon 
lost all heart in the contest. He was too scrupulous, and 
lacked too much the essentials of self-confidence and per- 
sistence, to be a successful suitor for office. In a letter to 
Joshua Speed, who had written him of a favorable refer- 


ence to him by Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, 1 he says, 
February 20, 1849, "I am flattered to learn that Mr. Crit- 
tenden has any recollection of me which is not unfavorable ; 
and for the manifestation of your kindness towards me I 
sincerely thank you. Still, there is nothing about me to 
authorize me to think of a first-class office, and a second- 
class one would not compensate me for being sneered at 
by others who want it for themselves. I believe that, so 
far as the Whigs in Congress are concerned, I could have 
the General Land Office almost by common consent ; but 
then Sweet and Don Morrison and Browning and Cyrus 
Edwards all want it, and what is worse, while I think I 
could easily take it myself I fear I shall have trouble to get 
it for any other man in Illinois. The reason is that 
McGaughey, an Indiana ex-member of Congress, is here 
after it, and being personally known he will be hard to beat 
by any one who is not." But, as the sequel proved, there 
was no need to fear the Hoosier stateman, for although he 
had the endorsement of General Scott and others of equal 
influence, yet he was left far behind in the race, and along 
with him Lincoln, Morrison, Browning, and Edwards. 
A dark horse in the person of Justin Butterfield sprang 
into view, and with surprising facility captured the tempt- 
ing prize. This latter and successful aspirant was a lawyer 
of rather extensive practice and reputation in Chicago. He 
was shrewd, adroit, and gifted with a knowledge of what 
politicians would call good management — a quality or char- 
acteristic in which Lincoln was strikingly deficient. He 
had endorsed the Mexican war, but strangely enough, had 
lost none of his prestige with the Whigs on that account. 2 

1 The original edition contains the following explanatory foot- 
note : "Lincoln had asked Speed to see Crittenden (then Governor 
of Kentucky) and secure from the latter a recommendation for 
Baker, who wanted a first-class foreign mission. Crittenden did 
not approve of Baker, but suggested that he would favor Lincoln, 
whom he regarded as a rising man. Speed suggested to Lincoln 
to apply for the place himself. 'I have pledged myself to Baker,' 
he answered, 'and cannot under any circumstances consent to the 
use of my name so long as he is urged for the same place'." 

2 In the original edition Herndon printed the following letter 
from Butterfield's daughter: 


[Lincoln's correspondence, with which Herndon was 
only partly familiar, tells a somewhat different story of his 
attempt to secure the Commissionership of the General 
Land Office. While Congress was still in session he had 
pledged himself to work for the appointment of Cyrus 
Edwards of Edwardsville, Illinois. When other applicants 
appeared, he agreed with E. D. Baker, recently elected 
from the Sixth District, that if Edwards and J. L. D. 
Morrison, of Belleville, could decide who would yield to 
the other, they would jointly support the applicant. When 
a group of Lincoln's friends wrote him that they favored 
him for the position, he answered that he was committed 
to Edwards' candidacy; however, "if the office could be 
secured to Illinois only by my consent to accept it, and not 
otherwise, I give that consent." 

But soon after his return to Washington it became 
evident, at least to Lincoln, that neither Edwards nor 
Morrison had the slightest chance of securing the com- 
missionership. Justin Butterfield of Chicago had become 
an applicant, and Lincoln alone had a chance to defeat him. 
Accordingly, he set to work to secure endorsements of his 
own application, admitting Butterfield's qualifications for 
the office, but basing his own claim upon greater party serv- 

"Chicago, Oct. 12th, 1888. 
"Mr. Jesse W. Weik. 

"Dear Sir: 

"My father was born in Keene, N. H., in 1790, entered Wil- 
liams College, 1807, and removed to Chicago in 1835. After the 
re-accession of the Whigs to power he was on the 21st of June 
in 1849 appointed Commissioner of the Land Office by President 
Taylor. A competitor for the position at that time was Abraham 
Lincoln, who was beaten, it was said, by 'the superior dispatch 
of Butterfield in reaching Washington by the Northern route,' 
but more correctly by the paramount influence of his friend Daniel 

"He held the position of Land Commissioner until disabled by 
paralysis in 1852. After lingering for three years in a disabled 
and enfeebled condition, he died at his home in Chicago, October 
23d, 1855, in his sixty-third year. 

"Very respectfully, 

"Elizabeth Sawyer." 


ices] Butterfield's appointment, he maintained, would be 
a'tremendous political blunder, being in effect the bestowal 
of a valuable office upon one of the ''old drones" of the 
party, while the younger, active workers went unrewarded. 

Early in June, 1849, Lincoln decided that a trip to Wash- 
ington was imperative if he were to secure the commis- 
sionership. To the accompaniment of Democratic jibes he 
set out for the capital. It was too late, however. Power- 
ful backers — notably Henry Clay and Daniel Webster — 
were supporting Butterfield, and his appointment was soon 

The lack of unanimous support for his own candidacy 
was an important cause of Lincoln's failure. Even in 
Springfield there were active enemies, twenty-eight Whig 
"mechanics" of that city signing a petition expressing dis- 
satisfaction with "the course of Abraham Lincoln as a 
member of Congress from this Congressional district," 
md recommending Justin Butterfield as "a suitable per- 
son to occupy the office of Commisioner of the General 
Land Office." 3 ] 

The close of Congress and the inauguration of Taylor 
were the signal for Lincoln's departure from Washington. 
He left with the comforting assurance that as an office- 
seeker he was by no means a success. Besides his lack of 
persistence, he had an unconscious feeling of superiority 
and pride that admitted of no such flexibility of opinion 
as the professional suitor for office must have, in order to 
succeed. He remained but a few days at his home in 
Illinois, however, before he again set out for Washington. 
The administration of President Taylor feeling that some 
reward was due Lincoln for his heroic efforts on the stump 
and elsewhere in behalf of the Whig party and its meas- 
ures, had offered him the office of either Governor or Sec- 
retary of Oregon, and with the view of considering this 
and other offers he returned to Washington. 4 Lincoln 

3 See Beveridge, I., pp. 487-91 ; Angle, New Letters and Papers 
of Lincoln, pp. 55-57. 

4 Lincoln's trip to Washington was a part of his attempt to 
secure the General Land Office. The Oregon appointment was 
offered at a later date- 


used to relate of this last-named journey an amusing inci- 
dent illustrating Kentucky hospitality. He set out from 
Ransdell's tavern in Springfield, early in the morning. The 
only other passenger in the stage for a good portion of the 
distance was a Kentuckian, on his way home from Mis- 
souri. The latter, painfully impressed no doubt with 
Lincoln's gravity and melancholy, undertook to relieve the 
general monotony of the ride by offering him a chew of 
tobacco. With a plain "No, sir, thank you ; I never chew," 
Lincoln declined, and a long period of silence followed. 
Later in the day the stranger, pulling from his pocket a 
leather-covered case, offered Lincoln a cigar, which he also 
politely declined on the ground that he never smoked. 
Finally, as they neared the station where horses were to be 
changed, the Kentuckian, pouring out a cup of brandy 
from a flask which had lain concealed in his satchel, offered 
it to Lincoln with the remark, "Well, stranger, seeing you 
don't smoke or chew, perhaps you'll take a little of this 
French brandy. It's a prime article and a good appetizer 
besides." His tall and uncommunicative companion de- 
clined this last and best evidence of Kentucky hospitality 
on the same ground as the tobacco. When they separated 
that afternoon, the Kentuckian, transferring to another 
stage, bound for Louisville, shook Lincoln warmly by the 
hand. "See here, stranger," he said, good-humoredly, 
"you're a clever, but strange companion. I may never see 
you again, and I don't want to offend you, but I want to 
say this : my experience has taught me that a man who has 
no vices has d — d few virtues. Good-day." Lincoln en- 
joyed this reminiscence of the journey, and took great 
pleasure in relating it. During this same journey occurred 
an incident for which Thomas H. Nelson, of Terre Haute, 
Indiana, who was appointed Minister to Chili by Lincoln, 
when he was President, is authority. "In the spring of 
1849," relates Nelson, "Judge Abram Hammond, who was 
afterwards Governor of Indiana, and I arranged to go 
from Terre Haute to Indianapolis in the stage coach. An 
entire day was usually consumed in the journey. By day- 
break the stage had arrived from the West, and as we 


stepped in we discovered that the entire back seat was 
occupied by a long, lank individual, whose head seemed 
to protrude from one end of the coach and his feet from 
the other. He was the sole occupant, and was sleeping 
soundly. Hammond slapped him familiarly on the 
shoulder, and asked him if he had chartered the stage for 
the day. The stranger, now wide awake, responded, 'Cer- 
tainly not/ and at once took the front seat, politely sur- 
rendering to us the place of honor and comfort. We took 
in our travelling companion at a glance. A queer, odd- 
looking fellow he was, dressed in a well worn and ill-fitting 
suit of bombazine, without vest or cravat, and a twenty- 
five cent palrri hat on the back of his head. His very 
prominent features in repose seemed dull and expression- 
less. Regarding him as a good subject for merriment we 
perpetrated several jokes. He took them all with the 
utmost innocence and good-nature, and joined in the laugh, 
although at his own expense. At noon we stopped at a 
wayside hostelry for dinner. We invited him to eat with 
us, and he approached the table as if he considered it a 
great honor. He sat with about half his person on a small 
chair, and held his hat under his arm during the meal. 
Resuming our journey after dinner, conversation drifted 
into a discussion of the comet, a subject that was then 
agitating the scientific world, in which the stranger took 
the deepest interest. He made many startling suggestions 
and asked many questions. We amazed him with words of 
learned length and thundering sound. After an astounding 
display of wordy pyrotechnics the dazed and bewildered 
stranger asked : 'What is going to be the upshot of this 
comet business?' I replied that I was not certain, in fact 
I differed from most scientists and philosophers, and was 
inclined to the opinion that the world would follow the 
darned thing off ! Late in the evening we reached Indian- 
apolis, and hurried to Browning's hotel, losing sight of 
the stranger altogether. We retired to our room to brush 
and wash away the dust of the journey. In a few minutes 
I descended to the portico, and there descried our long, 
gloomy fellow-traveller in the center of an admiring group 


of lawyers, among whom were Judges McLean and Hunt- 
ington, Edward Hannigan, Albert S. White, and Richard 
W. Thompson, who seemed to be amused and interested 
in a story he was telling. I inquired of Browning, the 
landlord, who he was. "Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, a 
member of Congress," was the response. I was thunder- 
struck at the announcement. I hastened upstairs and told 
Hammond the startling news, and together we emerged 
from the hotel by a back door and went down an alley to 
another house, thus avoiding further contact with our now 
distinguished fellow-traveler. Curiously enough, years 
after this, Hammond had vacated the office of Governor of 
Indiana a few days before Lincoln arrived in Indianapolis, 
on his way to Washington to be inaugurated President. I 
had many opportunities after the stage ride to cultivate Mr. 
Lincoln's acquaintance, and was a zealous advocate of his 
nomination and election to the Presidency. Before leaving 
his home for Washington, Mr. Lincoln caused John P. 
Usher and myself to be invited to accompany him. We 
agreed to join him in Indianapolis. On reaching that 
city the Presidential party had already arrived, and upon 
inquiry we were informed that the President-elect was in 
the dining-room of the hotel, at supper. Passing through, 
we saw that every seat at the numerous tables was occupied, 
but failed to find Mr. Lincoln. As we were nearing the 
door to the office of the hotel, a long arm reached to my 
shoulder and a shrill voice exclaimed, 'Hello, Nelson! do 
you think, after all, the world is going to follow the 
darned thing off?' It was Mr. Lincoln." 

The benefits and advantages of the territorial posts 
offered by President Taylor to Lincoln were freely dis- 
cussed by the latter's friends. Some urged his acceptance 
on the usual ground that when Oregon was admitted as a 
State, he might be its first Senator. Lincoln himself had 
some inclination to accept. He told me himself that he 
felt by his course in Congress he had committed political 
suicide, and wanted to try a change of locality — hence the 
temptation to go to Oregon. But when he brought the 
proposition home to his fireside, his wife put her foot 


squarely down on it with a firm and emphatic No. That 
always ended it with Lincoln. The result of the whole 
thing proved a fortunate deliverance for him, the propriety 
of which became more apparent as the years rolled by. 

About this time Grant Goodrich, a lawyer in Chicago, 
proposed to take Lincoln into partnership with him. Good- 
rich had an extensive and paying practice there, but Lin- 
coln refused the offer, giving as a reason that he tended 
to consumption, and, if he removed to a city like Chicago, 
he would have to sit down and study harder than ever. 
The close application required of him and the confinement 
in the office, he contended, would soon kill him. He pre- 
ferred going around on the circuit, and even if he earned 
smaller fees he felt much happier. 5 

While a member of Congress and otherwise immersed 
in politics Lincoln seemed to lose all interest in law. Of 
course, what practice he himself controlled passed into 
other hands. I retained all the business I could, and 
worked steadily on until, when he returned, our practice 
was as extensive as that of any other firm at the bar. 
Lincoln realized that much of this was due to my efforts, 
and on his return he therefore suggested that he had no 
right to share in the business and profits which I had 
made. I responded that, as he had aided me and given 
me prominence when I was young and needed it, I could 
afford now to be grateful if not generous. I therefore 
recommended a continuation of the partnership, and we 
went on as before. I could notice a difference in Lin- 
coln's movement as a lawyer from this time forward. He 
had begun to realize a certain lack of discipline — a want 
of mental training and method. Ten years had wrought 
some change in the law, and more in the lawyers, of 
Illinois. The conviction had settled in the minds of the 
people that the pyrotechnics of court room and stump 
oratory did not necessarily imply extensive or profound 
ability in the lawyer who resorted to it. The courts were 
becoming graver and more learned, and the lawyer was 

5 Original footnote. 


learning as a preliminary and indispensable condition to 
success that he must be a close reasoner, besides having 
at command a broad knowledge of the principles on which 
the statutory law is constructed. There was of course 
the same riding on circuit as before, but the courts had 
improved in tone and morals, and there was less laxity — 
at least it appeared so to Lincolm/Political defeat had 
wrought a marked effect on him. It went below the skin 
and made a changed man of him. He was not soured 
at his seeming political decline, but still he determined to 
eschew politics from that time forward and devote him- 
self entirely to the law. And now he began to make up 
for time lost in politics by studying the law in earnest. 
No man had greater power of application than he. Once 
fixing his mind on any subject, nothing could interfere 
with or disturb him. Frequently I would go out on the 
circuit with him. We, usually, at the little country inns 
occupied the same bed. In most cases the beds were too 
short for him, and his feet would hang over the floor- 
board, thus exposing a limited expanse of shin bone. 
Placing a candle on a chair at the head of the bed, he would 
read and study for hours. I have known him to study 
in this position till two o'clock in the morning. Mean- 
while, I and others who chanced to occupy the same room 
would be safely and soundly asleep. On the circuit in 
this way he studied Euclid until he could with ease dem- 
onstrate all the propositions in the six books. How he 
could maintain his mental equilibrium or concentrate his 
thoughts on an abstract mathematical proposition, while 
Davis, Logan, Swett, Edwards, and I so industriously and 
volubly filled the air with our interminable snoring was 
a problem none of us could ever solve. I was on the cir- 
cuit with Lincoln probably one-fourth of the time. The 
remainder of my time was spent in Springfield looking 
after the business there, but I know that life on the cir- 
cuit was a gay one. It was rich with incidents, and af- 
forded the nomadic lawyers ample relaxation from all , 
the irksome toil that fell to their lot. Lincoln loved it. I 


I suppose it would be a fair estimate to state that he spent 
over half the year following Judges Treat and Davis 
around on the circuit. On Saturdays the court and at- 
torneys, if within a reasonable distance, would usually 
start for their homes. Some went for. a fresh supply of 
clothing, but the greater number went simply to spend a 
day of rest with their families. The only exception was 
Lincoln, who usually spent his Sundays with the loungers 
at the country tavern, and only went home at the end of 
the circuit or term of court. "At first," 6 relates one of 
his colleagues on the circuit (David Davis), "we wondered 
at it, but soon learned to account for his strange disinclina- 
tion to go home. Lincoln himself never had much to say 
about home, and we never felt free to comment on it. 
Most of us had pleasant, inviting homes, and as we struck 
out for them Fm sure each one of us down in our hearts 
had a mingled feeling of pity and sympathy for him." If 
the day was long and he was oppressed, the feeling was 
soon relieved by the narration of a story. The tavern 
loungers enjoyed it, and his melancholy, taking to itself 
wings, seemed to fly away. In the role of a story-teller I am 
prone to regard Mr. Lincoln as without an equal. I have 
seen him surrounded by a crowd numbering as many as 
two and in some cases three hundred persons, all deeply 
interested in the outcome of a story which, when he had 
finished it, speedily found repetition in every grocery and 
lounging place within reach. His power of mimicry, as 
I have before noted, and his manner of recital, were in 
many respects unique, if not remarkable. His counte- 

6 Prior to the '50's, when the main lines of most of the present 
railroad systems of Illinois were constructed, Lincoln could have 
had little opportunity to return to his home on week-ends. While 
most of the lawyers of the circuit practiced only in counties 
adjacent to their own, he made the entire round. Since courts 
were held on both Saturday and Monday, distance prevented him 
from returning- to Springfield except at long intervals, though 
other attorneys, living much nearer, might visit their families 
almost every Sunday. As a matter of fact, as transportation 
facilities improved Lincoln's absences became shorter and shorter. 


nance and all his features seemed to take part in the per- 
formance. As he neared the pith or point of the joke 
or story every vestige of seriousness disappeared from 
his face. His little gray eyes sparkled ; a smile seemed 
to gather up, curtain like, the corners of his mouth; his 
frame quivered with suppressed excitement ; and when 
the point — or "nub" of the story, as he called it — came, 
no one's laugh was heartier than his. These backwoods 
allegories are out of date now, and any lawyer, ambitious 
to gain prominence, would hardly dare thus to entertain 
a crowd, except at the risk of his reputation; but with 
Lincoln it gave him, in some mysterious way, a singu- 
larly firm hold on the people. 

Lincoln was particularly strong in Menard County, and 
while on the circuit there he met with William Engle and 
James Murray, two men who were noted also for their 
story-telling proclivities. I am not now asserting for the 
country and the period what would at a later day be con- 
sidered a very high standard of taste. Art had not such 
patrons as today, but the people loved the beautiful as 
nature furnished it, and the good as they found it, with 
as much devotion as the more refined classes now are 
joined to their idols. Newspapers were scarce, and the 
court-house, with its cluster of itinerant lawyers, dissem- 
inated much of the information that was afterwards 
broken up into smaller bits at the pioneer's fireside. A 
curious civilization indeed, but one through which every 
Western State distant from the great arterial river or 
seaboard has had to pass. 

When Lincoln, Murray, and Engle met, there was sure 
to be a crowd. All were more or less masters in their 
art. I have seen the little country tavern where these three 
were wont to meet after an adjournment of court, crowded 
almost to suffocation with an audience of men who had 
gathered to witness the contest among the members of 
the strange triumvirate. The physicians of the town, all 
the lawyers, and not unfrequently a preacher could be 


found in the crowd that rilled the doors and windows. 
The yarns they spun and the stories they told would not 
bear repetition here, but many of them had morals which, 
while exposing the weaknesses of mankind, stung like a 
whip-lash. Some were no doubt a thousand years old, 
with just enough "verbal varnish" and alterations of names 
and dates to make them new and crisp. By virtue of the 
last-named application, Lincoln was enabled to draw from 
Balzac a "droll story," and locating it in "Egypt" 7 or in 
Indiana, pass it off for a purely original conception. Ev- 
ery recital was followed by its "storm of laughter and 
chorus of cheers." After this had all died down, some 
unfortunate creature, through whose thickened skull the 
point had just penetrated, would break out in a guffaw, 
starting another wave of laughter which, growing to the 
proportions of a billow, would come rolling in like a 
veritable breaker. I have known these story-telling jousts 
to continue long after midnight — in some cases till the 
very small hours of the morning. I have seen Judge Treat, 
who was the very impersonation of gravity itself, sit up 
till the last and laugh until, as he often expressed it, "he 
almost shook his ribs loose." The next day he would 
ascend the bench and listen to Lincoln in a murder trial, 
with all the seeming severity of an English judge in wig 
and gown. Amid such surroundings, a leading figure in 
such society, alternately reciting the latest effusion of 
the bar-room or mimicking the clownish antics of the 
negro minstrel, he who was destined to be an immortal 
emancipator, was steadily and unconsciously nearing the 
great trial of his life. We shall see further on how this 
rude civilization crystallized both his logic and his wit 
for use in another day. 

Reverting again to Mr. Lincoln as a lawyer, it is proper 
to add that he detested the mechanical work of the office. 

7 The word Egypt, so frequently used in this book, refers to 
that portion of Illinois which lies south of the famous National 


He wrote few papers — less perhaps than any other man at 
the bar. Such work was usually left to me for the first 
few years we were together. Afterwards we made good 
use of students who came to learn the law in our office. 8 
A Chicago lawyer, Henry C. Whitney, in a letter to me 
about Mr. Lincoln, in 1866, says : "Lincoln once told me 
that he had taken you in as a partner, supposing you had 
system and would keep things in order, but that he found 
out you had no more system than he had, but that you were 
in reality a good lawyer, so that he was doubly disap- 
pointed." Lincoln knew no such thing as order or method 
in his law practice. He made no preparation in advance, 
but trusted to the hour for its inspiration and to Providence 
for his supplies. In the matter of letter-writing he made no 
distinction between one of a business nature or any other 
kind. In 1842 he wrote Joshua Speed : "I wish you would 
learn of Everett what he would take, over and above a 
discharge, for all trouble we have been at to take his busi- 
ness out of our hands and give it to somebody else. It 
is impossible to collect money on that or any other claim 
here, now, and although you know I am not a very petu- 
lant maty- 1 declare that I am almost out of patience with 
Mr. Everett's endless importunities. It seems like he not 
only writes all the letters he can himself, but he gets 
everybody else in Louisville and vicinity to be constantly 
writing to us about his claim. I have always said that 
Mr. Everett is a very clever fellow, and I am very sorry he 
cannot be obliged ; but it does seem to me he ought to 
know we are interested to collect his claim, and therefore 
would do it if we could. I am neither joking nor in a 
pet when I say we would thank him to transfer his busi- 
ness to some other, without any compensation for what 
we have done, provided he will see the court costs paid 

8 1 have seen hundreds of pleadings bearing the firm name 
of Lincoln & Herndon. Even to the purely formal praecipe, 
the great majority — perhaps ninety per cent — are in Lincoln's 
handwriting. The balance are almost entirely in Herndon's writ- 
ing. Very rarely can one be identified as the work of a student. 


for which we are security." ! If a happy thought of ex- 
pression struck him he was by no means reluctant to use it. 
As early as 1839 he wrote to a gentleman about a 
matter of business, observing crustily that "a d d hawk- 
billed Yankee is here besetting me at every turn I take, 
saying that Robert Kenzie never received the $80 to which 
he was entitled." In July, 1851, he wrote a facetious 
message to one of his clients, saying: "I have news from 
Ottawa that we win our case. As the Dutch justice said 
when he married folks, 'Now where ish my hundred tol- 

The following letter shows how Lincoln proposed to 
fill a vacancy in the office of Clerk of the United States 
Court. It reads like the letter of a politician in the midst 
of a canvass for office : 

"Springfield, III., December 6, 1854. 
"Hon. Justice McLean. 

"Sir : I understand it is in contemplation to displace the 
present Clerk and appoint a new one for the Circuit and Dis- 
trict Courts of Illinois. I am very friendly to the present in- 
cumbent, and both for his own sake and that of his family, I 
wish him to be retained so long as it is possible for the Court 
to do so. 

"In the contingency of his removal, however, I have recom- 
mended William Butler as his successor, and I do not wish 
what I write now to be taken as any abatement of that recom- 

"William J. Black is also an applicant for the appointment, 
and I write this at the solicitation of his friends to say that 
he is every way worthy of the office, and that I doubt not the 
conferring it upon him will give great satisfaction. 

"Your ob't servant, 

"A. Lincoln." 10 

He was proverbially careless as to habits. In a letter 
to a fellow-lawyer in another town, apologizing for fail- 

9 In the original edition Herndon used this quotation as a foot- 

10 Original footnote. 


lire to answer sooner, he explains : ''First, I have been 
very busy in the United States Court ; second, when I 
received the letter I put it in my old hat and buying a 
new one the next day the old one was set aside, and so 
the letter was lost sight of for a time." This hat of Lin- 
coln's — a silk plug — was an extraordinary receptacle. It 
was his desk and his memorandum-book. In it he car- 
ried his bank book and the bulk of his letters. Whenever 
in his reading or researches he wished to preserve an 
idea, he jotted it down on an envelope or stray piece of 
paper and placed it inside the lining. Afterwards when 
the memorandum was needed there was only one place to 
look for it. 

Lincoln had always on the top of our desk a bundle 
of papers into which he slipped anything he wished to 
keep and afterwards refer to. It was a receptacle of gen- 
eral information. Some years ago, on removing the fur- 
niture from the office, I took down the bundle and blew 
from the top the liberal coat of dust that had accumulated 
thereon. Immediately underneath the string was a slip 
bearing this endorsement, in his hand : "When you can't 
find it anywhere else, look in this." n 

How Lincoln appeared and acted in the law office has 
been graphically and, I must confess, truthfully told by a 
gentleman now in New York, who was for several years 
a student in our office. I beg to quote a few lines from 
him : "My brother met Mr. Lincoln in Ottawa, 111., 12 one 
day, and said to him : T have a brother who I would very 
much like to have enter your office as a student.' 'All 
right!' was his reply; 'send him down and we will take a 
look at him/ I was then studying law at Grand Rapids, 
Mich., and on hearing from my brother I immediately 
packed up and started for Springfield. I arrived there on 
Saturday night. On Sunday Mr. Lincoln was pointed 
out to me. I well remember this first sight of him. He 

11 Ibid. 

12 John H. Littlefield, Brooklyn Eagle, October 16, 1887. 

meserve no. 82. A photograph made by 
Mathew B. Brady on February 9, 1864, and 
later used by Victor D. Brenner in the design 
for the Lincoln penny. 


was striding along, holding little Tad, then about six years 
oid, by the hand, who could with the greatest difficulty 
keep up with his father. In the morning I applied at the 
office of Lincoln and Herndon for admission as a stu- 
dent. The office was on the second floor of a brick build- 
ing on the public square, opposite the court-house. You 
went up one flight of stairs and then passed along a hall- 
way to the rear office, which was a medium sized room. 
There was one long table in the center of the room, and 
a shorter one running in the opposite direction, forming 
a T, and both were covered with green baize. There were 
two windows which looked into the back yard. In one 
corner was an old-fashioned secretary with pigeon-holes 
and a drawer, and here Mr. Lincoln and his partner kept 
their law papers. There was also a book-case containing 
about 200 volumes of law as well as miscellaneous books. 
The morning I entered the office Mr. Lincoln and his 
partner, Mr. Herndon, were both present. Mr. Lincoln 
addressed his partner thus : 'Billy, this is the young man 
of whom I spoke to you. Whatever arrangement you make 
with him will be satisfactory to me.' Then, turning to 
me, he said, T hope you will not become so enthusiastic in 
your studies of Blackstone and Kent as did two young 
men whom we had here. Do you see that spot over there?' 
pointing to a large ink stain on the wall. 'Well, one of 
these young men got so enthusiastic in his pursuit of legal 
lore that he fired an inkstand at the other one's head, 
and that is the mark he made.' I' immediately began to 
clean up about the office a little. Mr. Lincoln had been 
in Congress and had the usual amount of seeds to dis- 
tribute to the farmers. These were sent out with Free 
Soil and Republican documents. In my efforts to clean 
up, I found that some of the seeds had sprouted in the 
dirt that had collected in the office. Judge Logan and 
Milton Hay occupied the front offices on the same floor 
with Lincoln and Herndon, and one day Mr. Hay came 
in and said with apparent astonishment : 'What's happened 
here ?' 'Oh, nothing,' replied Lincoln, pointing to me, 'only 
this young man has been cleaning up a little.' One of 


Lincoln's striking characteristics was his simplicity, and 
nowhere was this trait more strikingly exhibited than in 
his willingness to receive instruction from anybody and 
everybody. One day he came into the office and addressing 
his partner, said: 'Billy, what's the meaning of antithesis?' 
Mr. Herndon gave him the definition of the word, and 
I said : 'Mr. Lincoln, if you will allow me, I will give you 
an example.' 'All right, John, go ahead,' said Mr. Lincoln 
in his hearty manner. 'Phillips says, in his essay on 
Napoleon, "A pretended patriot, he impoverished the coun- 
try ; a professed Catholic, he imprisoned the Pope," 
etc. Mr. Lincoln thanked me and seemed very much 
pleased. Returning from off the circuit once he said to 
Mr. Herndon: 'Billy, I heard a good story while I was 

up in the country. Judge D was complimenting the 

landlord on the excellence of his beef. "I am surprised," 
he said, "that you have such good beef. You must have 
to kill a whole critter when you want any." "Yes," said 
the landlord, "we never kill less than a whole critter." 

"Lincoln's favorite position when unraveling some 
knotty law point was to stretch both of his legs at full 
length upon a chair in front of him. In this position, with 
books on the table near by and in his lap, he worked up 
his case. No matter how deeply interested in his work, if 
any one came in he had something humorous and pleasant 
to say, and usually wound up by telling a joke or an anec- 
dote. I have heard him relate the same story three times 
within as many hours to persons who came in at different 
periods, and every time he laughed as heartily and enjoyed 
it as if it were a new story. His humor was infectious. 
I had to laugh because I thought it funny that Mr. Lincoln 
enjoyed a story so repeatedly told. 

"There was no order in the office at all. The firm of 
Lincoln and Herndon kept no books. They divided their 
fees without taking any receipts or making any entries on 
books. One day Mr. Lincoln received $5,000 as a fee in 
a railroad case. He came in and said ; 'Well, Billy,' ad- 
dressing his partner, Mr. Herndon, 'here is our fee ; sit 


down and let me divide.' He counted out $2,500 to his 
partner, and gave it to him with as much nonchalance as 
he would have given a few cents for a paper. Cupidity 
had no abiding place in his nature. 

"I took a good deal of pains in getting up a speech which 
I wanted to deliver during a political campaign. I told Mr. 
Lincoln that I would like to read it to him. He sat down in 
one chair, put his feet into another one, and said : 'John, 
you can fire away with that speech; I guess I can stand it.' 
I unrolled the manuscript, and proceeded with some trep- 
idation. 'That's a good point, John,' he would say, at 
certain places, and at others : 'That's good — very good 
indeed,' until I felt very much elated over my effort. I 
delivered the speech over fifty times during the campaign. 
Elmer E. Ellsworth, afterwards colonel of the famous 
Zouaves, who was killed in Alexandria, early in the war, 
was nominally a student in Lincoln's office. His head 
was so full of military matters, however, that he thought 
little of law. Of Ellsworth, Lincoln said: 'That young- 
man has a real genius for war !' "^£ 

During the six years following his retirement from Con- 
gress, Lincoln, realizing in a marked degree his want of 
literary knowledge, extended somewhat his research in that 
direction. He was naturally indisposed to undertake any- 
thing that savored of exertion, but his brief public career 
had exposed the limited area of his literary attainments. 
Along with his Euclid therefore he carried a well-worn 
copy of Shakespeare, in which he read no little in his leis- 
ure moments. "In travelling on the circuit," relates one of 
his associates at the bar (Lawrence Weldon), "he was in 
the habit of rising earlier than his brothers of the bar. On 
such occasions he was wont to sit by the fire, having un- 
covered the coals, and muse, and ponder, and soliloquize, 
inspired, no doubt, by that strange psychological influence 
which is so poetically described by Poe in 'The Raven.' 
On one of these occasions, at the town of Lincoln, sitting 
in the position described, he quoted aloud and at length 
the poem called 'Immortality.' When he had finished he 


was questioned as to the authorship and where it could 
be found. He had forgotten the author, but said that to 
him it sounded as much like true poetry as anything he 
had ever heard. He was particularly pleased with the last 
two stanzas." 

Beyond a limited acquaintance with Shakespeare, Byron, 
and Burns, Mr. Lincoln, comparatively speaking, had no 
knowledge of literature. He was familiar with the Bible, 
and now and then evinced a fancy for some poem or short 
sketch to which his attention was called by some one else, 
or which he happened to run across in his cursory reading 
of books or newspapers. He never in his life sat down and 
read a book through, and yet he could readily quote any 
number of passages from the few volumes whose pages he 
had hastily scanned. In addition to his well-known love 
for the poem "Immortality" or "Why should the Spirit of 
Mortal be Proud," he always had a great fondness for 
Oliver Wendell Holmes' "Last Leaf," the fourth stanza 
of which, beginning with the verse, "The mossy marbles 
rest," I have often heard him repeat. He once told me of 
a song a young lady had sung in his hearing at a time 
when he was laboring under some dejection of spirits. 
The lines struck his fancy, and although he did not know 
the singer — having heard her from the sidewalk as he 
passed her house — he sent her a request to write the lines 
out for him. Within a day or two he came into the office, 
carrying in his hand a delicately perfumed envelope which 
bore the address, "Mr. Lincoln — Present," in an unmis- 
takable female hand. In it, written on gilt-edged paper, 
were the lines of the song. The plaintive strain of the 
piece and its melancholy sentiment struck a responsive 
chord in a heart already filled with gloom and sorrow. 
Though ill-adapted to dissipate one's depression, something 
about it charmed Lincoln, and he read and re-read it with 
increasing relish. I had forgotten the circumstance until 
recently, when, in going over some old papers and letters 
turned over to me by Mr. Lincoln, I ran across the manu- 
script, and the incident was brought vividly to my mind. 
The mvelope, still retaining a faint reminder of the per- 


fumed scent given it thirty years before, bore the laconic 
endorsement, "Poem — I like this," in the handwriting of 
Mr. Lincoln. Unfortunately no name accompanied the 
manuscript, and unless the lady on seeing this chooses to 
make herself known, we shall probably not learn who the 
singer was. The composition is headed, "The Inquiry." 
I leave it to my musical friends to render it into song. Fol- 
lowing are the lines : 

"Tell me, ye winged winds 
That round my pathway roar, 
Do ye not know some spot 
Where mortals weep no more? 
Some lone and pleasant vale 
Some valley in the West, 
Where, free from toil and pain, 
The weary soul may rest ? 
The loud wind dwindled to a whisper low, 
And sighed for pity as it answered, No. 

'Tell me, thou mighty deep, 
Whose billows round me play, 
Knows't thou some favored spot, 
Some island far away, 
Where weary man may find 
The bliss for which he sighs; 
Where sorrow never lives 
And friendship never dies ? 
The loud waves rolling in perpetual flow 
Stopped for awhile and sighed to answer, No. 

"And thou, serenest moon, 
That with such holy face 
Dost look upon the earth 
Asleep in Night's embrace — 
Tell me, in all thy round 
Hast thou not seen some spot 
Where miserable man 
Might find a happier lot? 
Behind a cloud the moon withdrew in woe, 
And a voice sweet but sad responded, No. 

"Tell me, my secret soul, 
Oh, tell me, Hope and Faith, 


Is there no resting-place 

From sorrow, sin, and death ? 

Is there no happy spot 

Where mortals may be blessed, 

Where grief may find a balm 

And weariness a rest ? 

Faith, Hope, and Love, best boon to mortals given, 

Waved their bright wings and whispered, Yes, in Heaven." 

Persons familiar with literature will recognize this as a 
poem written by Charles Mackay, an English writer who 
represented a London newspaper in the United States dur- 
ing the Rebellion as its war correspondent. It was set to 
music as a chant, and as such was frequently rendered in 
public by the famous Hutchinson family of singers. I 
doubt if Mr. Lincoln ever knew who wrote it. 

Judge S. H. Treat, recently deceased, thus describes 
Lincoln's first appearance in the Supreme Court of Illi- 
nois. "A case being called for hearing, Mr. Lincoln stated 
that he appeared for the appellant and was ready to pro- 
ceed with the argument. He then said : 'This is the first 
case I have ever had in this court, and I have therefore 
examined it with great care. As the Court will perceive 
by looking at the abstract of the record, the only question 
in the case is one of authority. I have not been able to find 
any authority to sustain my side of the case, but I have 
found several cases directly in point on the other side. I 
will now give these authorities to the Court, and then sub- 
mit the case." 13 

A lawyer in Beardstown (J. Henry Shaw) relates this: 
"Lincoln came into my office one day with the remark : T 
see you've been suing some of my clients, and I've come 
down to see about it.' He had reference to a suit I 

13 John T. Richards (Abraham Lincoln: The Lawyer-States- 
man, pp. 56-58) shows that this episode could not have occurred in 
connection with Lincoln's first case before the Supreme Court, 
nor in connection with his first case before the court after Treat's 
appointment as a Justice. In view of this fact, and because of 
its general appearance of improbability, he describes it as a myth, 
a characterization which seems sound. 


had brought to enforce the specific performance of a con- 
tract. I explained the case to him, and showed my proofs. 
He seemed surprised that I should deal so frankly with 
him, and said he would be as frank with me; that my 
client was justly entitled to a decree, and he should so 
represent it to the court ; and that it was against his prin- 
ciples to contest a clear matter of right. So my client got 
a deed for a farm which, had another lawyer been in Mr. 
Lincoln's place, would have been consumed by the costs 
of litigation for years, with the result probably the same 
in the end." A young man once wrote to Lincoln, inquir- 
ing for the best mode of obtaining a thorough knowledge 
of the law. "The mode is very simple," he responded, 
"though laborious and tedious. It is only to get books and 
read and study them carefully. Begin with Blackstone's 
Commentaries, and after reading carefully through, say 
twice, take up Chitty's Pleadings, Greenleaf's Evidence, 
and Story's Equity in succession. Work, work, work, is 
the main thing." 

Lincoln never believed in suing for a fee. If a client 
would not pay on request he never sought to enforce 
collection. 14 I remember once a man who had been in- 
dicted for forgery or fraud employed us to defend him., 
The illness of the prosecuting attorney caused some delay 
in the case, and our client, becoming dissatisfied at our 
conduct of the case, hired some one else, who superseded 
us most effectually. The defendant declining to pay us 
the fee demanded, on the ground that we had not repre- 
sented him at the trial of the cause, I brought suit against 
him in Lincoln's absence and obtained judgment for our 
fee. After Lincoln's return from the circuit the fellow 
hunted him up and by means of a carefully constructed 
tale prevailed on him to release the judgment without re- 
ceiving a cent of pay. The man's unkind treatment of us 

"Lincoln sued for fees at least six different times. In view 
of the fact, however, that only one suit was brought in the name 
of Lincoln & Herndon, Herndon's contrary statement is not sur- 
prising. See William H. Townsend, Lincoln the Litigant. 



deserved no such mark of generosity from Lincoln, and yet 
he could not resist the appeal of any one in poverty and 
want. He could never turn from a woman in tears. I 
have heard Lincoln say he thanked God that he was not 
born a woman, because he could not refuse any request 
if it was not apparently dishonest. 15 It was no surprise to 
me or any of his intimate friends that so many designing 
women with the conventional widow's weeds and easy- 
flowing tears overcame him in Washington. It was diffi- 
cult for him to detect an impostor, and hence it is not to be 
marveled at that he cautioned his secretaries : "Keep them 
away — I cannot stand it." 

On many questions I used to grow somewhat enthusi- 
astic, adopting sometimes a lofty metaphor by way of em- 
bellishment. Lincoln once warned me : "Billy, don't shoot 
too high — aim lower and the common people will under- 
stand you. They are the ones you want to reach — at least 
they are the ones you ought to reach. The educated and 
refined people will understand you any way. If you aim 
too high your ideas will go over the heads of the masses, 
and only hit those who need no hitting." While it is true 
that from his peculiar construction Lincoln dwelt entirely 
in the head and in the land of thought, and while he was 
physically a lazy man, yet he was intellectually energetic; 
he was not only energetic, but industrious; not only in- 
dustrious, but tireless ; not only tireless, but indefatigable. 
Therefore if in debate with him a man stood on a question- 
able foundation he might well watch whereon he stood. 
Lincoln could look a long distance ahead and calculate the 
triumph of right. With him justice and truth were para- 
mount. If to him a thing seemed untrue he could not in his 
nature simulate truth. His retention by a man to defend 
a lawsuit did not prevent him from throwing it up in its 
most critical stage if he believed he was espousing an un- 
just cause. This extreme conscientiousness and disregard 
of the alleged sacredness of the professional cloak robbed 
him of much so-called success at the bar. He once wrote 
15 This sentence was a footnote in the original edition. 


to one of our clients : "I do not think there is the least use 
of doing anything more with your lawsuit. I not only do 
not think you are sure to gain it, but I do think you are 
sure to lose it. Therefore the sooner it ends the better." 
Messrs. Stuart and Edwards once brought a suit against a 
client of ours which involved the title to considerable prop- 
erty. At that time we had only two or three terms of 
court, and the docket was somewhat crowded. The plain- 
tiff's attorneys were pressing us for a trial, and we were 
equally as anxious to ward it off. What we wanted were 
time and a continuance to the next term. We dared not 
make an affidavit for continuance, founded on facts, be- 
cause no such pertinent and material facts as the law 
contemplated existed. Our case for the time seemed hope- 
less. One morning, however, I accidentally overheard a 
remark from Stuart indicating his fear lest a certain fact 
should happen to come into our possession. I felt some 
relief, and at once drew up a fictitious plea, averring as best 
I could the substance of the doubts I knew existed in 
Stuart's mind. The plea was as skilfully drawn as I knew 
how, and was framed as if ,we had the evidence to sustain 
it. The whole thing was a sham, but so constructed as to 
work the desired continuance, because I knew that Stuart 
and Edwards believed the facts were as I pleaded them. 
This was done in the absence and without the knowledge 
of Lincoln. The plea could not be demurred to, and the 
opposing counsel dared not take issue on it. \ It perplexed 
them sorely. At length, before further steps were taken, 
Lincoln came into court. He looked carefully over all the 
papers in the case, as was his custom, and seeing my in- 
genious subterfuge, asked, "Is this seventh plea a good 
one?" Proud of the exhibition of my skill, I answered 
that it was. "But," he inquired, incredulously, "is it 
founded on fact?" I was obliged to respond in the nega- 
tive, at the same time following up my answer with an 
explanation of what I had overheard Stuart intimate, and 
of how these alleged facts could be called facts if a certain 
construction were put upon them. I insisted that our posi- 


tion was justifiable, and that our client must have time or 
be ruined. I could see at once it failed to strike Lincoln as 
just right. He scratched his head thoughtfully and asked, 
"Hadn't we better withdraw that plea? You know it's a 
sham, and a sham is very often but another name for a lie. 
Don't let it go on record. The cursed thing may come 
staring us in the face long after this suit has been for- 
gotten.'' The plea was withdrawn. By some agency — 
not our own — the case was continued and our client's in- 
terests were saved. I only relate this incident to illustrate 
Lincoln's far-seeing capacity ; it serves to show how over- 
cautious he seemed to be with regard to how his record 
might look in the future. I venture the assertion that he 
was the only member of the bar in Springfield who would 
have taken such a conscientious view of the matter. 

One phase of Lincoln's character, almost lost sight of in 
the commonly accepted belief in his humility and kindly 
feeling under all circumstances, was his righteous indigna- 
tion when aroused. In such cases he was the most fearless 
man I ever knew. I remember a murder case in which we 
appeared for the defense, and during the trial of which the 
judge — a man of ability far inferior to Lincoln's — kept 
ruling against us. 16 Finally, a very material question, in 
fact one around which the entire case seemed to revolve, 
came up, and again the Court ruled adversely. The prose- 
cution was jubilanj^and Lincoln, seeing defeat certain un- 
less he recovered his ground, grew very despondent. The 
notion crept into his head that the Court's rulings, which 
were absurd and almost spiteful, were aimed at him, and 
this angered him beyond reason. He told me of his feel- 
ings at dinner, and said : 'T have determined to crowd the 
Court to the wall and regain my position before night." 
From that time forward it was interesting to watch him. 

16 The case was the State vs. P. Q. Harrison, tried in the Sanga- 
mon Circuit Court at the fall term, 1859. Since Sangamon 
County had been cut off from the Eighth Circuit in 1857 the 
Judge was E. J. Rice — not Lincoln's friend David Davis. Lincoln 
& Herndon, Stephen T. Logan and Shelby M. Cullom were 
the defendant's attorneys. The jury brought in a verdict acquit- 
ting the prisoner. 


At the reassembling of court he arose to read a few author- 
ities in support of his position. In his comments he kept 
within the bounds of propriety just far enough to avoid 
a reprimand for contempt of court. He characterized the 
continued rulings against him as not only unjust but fool- 
ish; and, figuratively speaking, he pealed the Court from 
head to foot. I shall never forget the scene. Lincoln had 
the crowd, a portion of the bar, and the jury with him: 
He knew that fact, and it, together with the belief that 
injustice had been done him, nerved him to a feeling of 
desperation. He was wrought up to the point of mad- 
ness. When a man of large heart and head is wrought | 
up and mad, as the old adage runs, "he's mad all over.J^ ) 
Lincoln had studied up the points involved, but knowing 
full well the calibre of the judge, relied mostly on the 
moral effect of his personal bearing and influence. He was 
alternately furious and eloquent, pursuing the Court with 
broad facts and pointed inquiries in marked and rapid 
succession. I remember he made use of this homely inci- 
dent in illustration of some point : "In early days a party 
of men went out hunting for a wild boar. But the game 
came upon them unawares, and scampering away they all 
climbed the trees save one, who, seizing the animal by the 
ears, undertook to hold him, but despairing of success 
cried out to his companions in the trees, 'For God's sake, 
boys, come down and help me let go.' ' The prosecution 
endeavored to break him down or even "head him off," 
but all to no purpose. His masterly arraignment of law 
and facts had so effectually badgered the judge that, 
strange as it may seem, he pretended to see the error in his 
former position, and finally reversed his decision in Lin- 
coln's favor. The latter saw his triumph, and surveyed 
a situation of which he was the master. His client was 
acquitted, and he had swept the field. 

In the case of Parker vs. Hoyt, tried in the United States 
Court in Chicago, Lincoln was one of the counsel for the 
defendant. The suit was on the merits of an infringement 
of a patent water wheel. The trial lasted several days 
and Lincoln manifested great interest in the case. In his 


earlier days he had run, or aided in running, a saw-mill, 
and explained in his argument the action of the water on 
the wheel in a manner so clear and intelligible that the jury 
were enabled to comprehend the points and line of defense 
without the least difficulty. It was evident he had carried 
the jury with him in a most masterly argument, the force 
of which could not be broken by the reply of the opposing 
counsel. After the jury retired he became very anxious 
and uneasy. The jury were in another building, the win- 
dows of which opened on the street, and had been out 
for some two hours. "In passing along the street, one of 
the jurors on whom we very much relied," relates Lin- 
coln's associate in the case (Grant Goodrich), "he being a 
very intelligent man and firm in his convictions, held up to 
him one finger. Mr. Lincoln became very much excited, 
fearing it indicated that eleven of the jury were against 
him. He knew if this man was for him he would never 
yield his opinion. He added, if he was like a juryman he 
had in Tazewell County, the defendant was safe. He was 
there employed, he said, to prosecute a suit for divorce. 
His client was a pretty, refined, and interesting little wo- 
man in court. The defendant, her husband, was a gross, 
morose, querulous, fault-finding, and uncomfortable man, 
and entirely unfitted for the husband of such a woman; 
but although he was able to prove the use of very offen- 
sive and vulgar epithets applied by the husband to his 
wife, and all sorts of annoyances, yet there were no such 
acts of personal violence as were required by the statute 
to justify a divorce. Lincoln did the best he could and 
appealed to the jury to have compassion on the woman, 
and not to bind her to such a man and such a life as 
awaited her if required to live longer with him. The jury 
took about the same view of it in their deliberations. They 
desired to find for his fair client, but could discover no 
evidence which would really justify a verdict for her. At 
last they drew up a verdict for the defendant, and all 
signed but one fellow, who on being approached with the 
verdict, said, coolly: 'Gentlemen, I am going to lie down 
to sleep, and when you get ready to give a verdict for that 


little woman, then wake me and not until then ; for before 
I will give a verdict against her I will lie here till I rot 
and the pismires carry me out through the key-hole.' 
'Now,' observed Lincoln, 'if that juryman will stick like 
the man in Tazewell County we are safe.' Strange to 
relate, the jury did come in, and with a verdict for the 
defendant. Lincoln always regarded this as one of the 
gratifying triumphs of his professional life." 



able or interesting incidents are concerned. If one is in 
search of stories of fraud, deceit, cruelty, broken promises, 
blasted homes, there is no better place to learn them than 
a law office. But to the majority of persons these painful 
recitals are anything but attractive, and it is well perhaps 
that it should be so. In the office, as in the court room, 
Lincoln, when discussing any point, was never arbitrary 
or insinuating. He was deferential, cool, patient, and 
respectful. When he reached the office, about nine o'clock 
in the morning, the first thing he did was to pick up a 
newspaper, spread himself out on an old sofa, one leg on 
a chair, and read aloud, much to my discomfort. Singu- 
larly enough Lincoln never read any other way but aloud. 
This habit used to annoy me almost beyond the point of 
endurance. I once asked him why he did so. This was 
his explanation: "When I read aloud two senses catch 
the idea: first, I see what I read; second, I hear it, and 
therefore I can remember it better." He never studied 
law books unless a case was on hand for consideration — 
never followed up the decisions of the supreme courts, 
as other lawyers did. It seemed as if he depended for 
his effectiveness in managing a law suit entirely on the 
stimulus and inspiration of the final hour. He paid but 
little attention to the fees and money matters of the firm — 
usually leaving all such to me. He never entered an item 
in the account book. If any one paid money to him which 
belonged to the firm, on arriving at the office he divided 
it with me. If I was not there, he would wrap up my 
share in a piece of paper and place it in my drawer — 


marking it with a pencil, "Case of Roe vs. Doe. — Hern- 
don's half." 

On many topics he was not a good conversationalist, 
because he felt that he was not learned enough. Neither 
was he a good listener. Putting it a little strongly, he 
was often not even polite. If present with others, or par- 
ticipating in a conversation, he was rather abrupt, and in 
his anxiety to say something apt or to illustrate the sub- 
ject under discussion, would burst in with a story. In our 
office I have known him to consume the whole forenoon 
relating stories. If a man came to see him for the pur- 
pose of finding out something, which he did not care to 
let him know and at the same time did not want to refuse 
him, he was very adroit. In such cases Lincoln would 
do most of the talking, swinging around what he sus- 
pected was the vital point, but never nearing it, interlarding 
his answers with a seemingly endless supply of stories 
and jokes. The interview being both interesting and 
pleasant, the man would depart in good humor, believing 
he had accomplished his mission. After he had walked 
away a few squares and had cooled off, the question would 
come up, "Well, what did I find out?" Blowing away 
the froth of Lincoln's humorous narratives he would find 
nothing substantial leftj/ 

"As he entered the trial," relates one of his colleagues 
at the bar (Leonard Swett), "where most lawyers would 
object he would say he 'reckoned' it would be fair to let 
this in, or that ; and sometimes, when his adversary could 
not quite prove what Lincoln knew to be the truth, he 
'reckoned' it would be fair to admit the truth to be so-and- 
so. When he did object to the Court, and when he heard 
his objections answered, he would often say, 'Well, I 
reckon I must be wrong/ Now, about the time he had 
practiced this three- fourths through the case, if his ad- 
versary didn't understand him, he would wake up in a few 
minutes learning that he had feared the Greeks too late 
and find himself beaten. He was wise as a serpent in the 
trial of a cause, but I have had too many scars from his 
blows to certify that he was harmless as a dove. When 


the whole thing was unraveled, the adversary would begin 
to see that what he was so blandly giving away was simply 
what he couldn't get and keep. By giving away six points 
and carrying the seventh he carried his case, and the whole 
case hanging on the seventh, he traded away everything 
which would give him the least aid in carrying that. Any 
man who took Lincoln for a simple-minded man would 
very soon wake up with his back in a ditch." 

Lincoln's restless ambition found its gratification only 
in the field of politics. He used the law merely as a 
stepping-stone to what he considered a more attractive 
condition in the political world. In the allurements held 
out by the latter he seemed to be happy. Nothing in Lin- 
coln's life has provoked more discussion than the question 
of his ability as a lawyer. I feel warranted in saying that 
he was at the same time a very great and a very insig- 
nificant lawyer. Judge David Davis, in his eulogy on 
Lincoln at Indianapolis, delivered at the meeting of the 
bar there in May, 1865, said this : "In all the elements that 
constituted a lawyer he had few equals. He was great 
at nisi prius and before an appellate tribunal. He seized 
the strong points of a cause and presented them with clear- 
ness and great compactness. His mind was logical and 
direct, and he did not indulge in extraneous discussion. 
Generalities and platitudes had no charm for him. An 
unfailing vein of humor never deserted him, and he was 
able to claim the attention of court and jury when the 
cause was most uninteresting by the appropriateness of his 
anecdotes. His power of comparison was large, and he 
rarely failed in a legal discussion to use that mode of rea- 
soning. The framework of his mental and moral being 
was honesty, and a wrong case was poorly defended by 
him. The ability which some eminent lawyers possess of 
explaining away the bad points of a cause by ingenious 
sophistry was denied him. In order to bring into full ac- 
tivity his great powers it was necessary that he should be 
convinced of the right and justice of the matter which he 
advocated. When so convinced, whether the cause was 
great or small he was usually successful. . . . He never 


took advantage of a man's low character to prejudice the 
jury. Mr. Lincoln thought his duty to his client extended 
to what was honorable and high-minded, just and noble — 
nothing further. Hence the meanest man at the bar al- 
ways paid great deference and respect to him." 1 

This statement of Judge Davis in general is correct, 
but in some particulars is faulty. It was intended as a 
eulogy on Lincoln, and as such would not admit of as many 
limitations and modifications as if spoken under other 
circumstances. In 1866 Judge Davis said in a statement 
made to me in his home at Bloomington, which I still have, 
"Mr. Lincoln had no managing faculty nor organizing 
power; hence a child could conform to the simple and 
technical rules, the means and the modes of getting at 
justice better than he. The law has its own rules, and a 
student could get at them or keep within them better than 
Lincoln. Sometimes he was forced to study these if he 
could not get the rubbish of a case removed. But all the 
way through his lack of method and organizing ability 
was clearly apparent." The idea that Mr. Lincoln was 
a great lawyer in the higher courts and a good nisi prius 
lawyer, and yet that a child or student could manage a 
case in court better than he, seems strangely inconsistent, 
but the facts of his life as a lawyer will reconcile this and 
TDther apparent contradictions. 

I was not only associated with Mr. Lincoln in Spring- 
field, but was frequently on the circuit with him, but of 
course not so much as Judge Davis, who held the court, 
and whom Lincoln followed around on the circuit for at 
least six months out of the year. I easily realized that 
Lincoln was strikingly deficient in the technical rules of 
the law. Although he was constantly reminding young 
legal aspirants to study and "work, work," yet I doubt 
if he ever read a single elementary law book through in 
his life. In fact, I may truthfully say, I never knew him 
to read through a law book of any kind. Practically, he 

1 The last three sentences of this paragraph, which Herndon 
originally used as a footnote, are from a statement which he took 
from Davis Sept. 10, 1866. 


knew nothing of the rules of evidence, of pleading, or prac- 
tice, as laid down in the text-books, and seemed to care 
nothing about them. He had a keen sense of justice, 
and struggled for it, throwing aside forms, methods, and 
rules, until it appeared pure as a ray of light flashing 
through a fog-bank. He was not a general reader in any 
field of knowledge, but when he had occasion to learn or 
investigate any subject he was thorough and indefatigable 
in his search: He not only went to the root of the ques- 
tion, but dug up the root, and separated and analyzed 
every fibre of it. He was in every respect a case lawyer, 
never cramming himself on any question till he had a case 
in which the question was involved. He thought slowly 
and acted slowly; he must needs have time to analyze all 
the facts in a case and wind them into a connected story. 
I have seen him lose cases of the plainest justice, which 
the most inexperienced member of the bar would have 
gained without effort. Two things were essential to his 
success in managing a case. One was time ; the other a 
feeling of confidence in the justice of the cause he rep- 
resented. He used to say, "If I can free this case from 
technicalities and get it properly swung to the jury, I'll 
win it." But if either of these essentials were lacking, 
he was the weakest man at the bar. He was greatest in 
my opinion as a lawyer in the Supreme Court of Illinois. 
There the cases were never hurried. The attorneys gen- 
erally prepared their cases in the form of briefs, and the 
movements of the court and counsel were so slow that no 
one need be caught by surprise. 2 I was with Lincoln once 
and listened to an oral argument by him in which he re- 
hearsed an extended history of the law. It was a care- 
fully prepared and masterly discourse, but, as I thought, 

2 Herndon's estimate of Lincoln as a lawyer has been challenged 
by the authors of the two comprehensive studies of his legal 
career: Frederick Trevor Hill {Lincoln the Lawyer) and John 
T. Richards {Abraham Lincoln: The Lawyer Statesman). Never- 
theless, a study of the documentary material, in so far as it is 
available, testifies to the correctness of his conclusion. See 
Angle, "Abraham Lincoln: Circuit Lawyer," in Lincoln Cen- 
tennial Association Papers for 1928. 


entirely useless. After he was through and we were walk- 
ing home I asked him why he went so far back in the his- 
tory of the law. I presumed the court knew enough 
history. "That's where you're mistaken," was his instant 
rejoinder. "I dared not trust the case on the presumption 
that the court knows everything — in fact I argued it on 
the presumption that the court didn't know anything," a 
statement which, when one reviews the decisions of our ap- 
pellate courts, is not so extravagant as one would at first 

I used to grow restless at Lincoln's slow movements 
and speeches in court. "Speak with more vim," I would 
frequently say, "and arouse the jury — talk faster and 
keep them awake." In answer to sucl> a suggestion he one 
day made use of this illustratiojx^'Give me your little 
pen-knife, with its short blade, and hand me that old jack- 
knife, lying on the table." Opening the blade of the pen- 
knife he said: "You see, this blade at the point travels 
rapidly, but only through a small portion of space till it 
stops; while the long blade of the jack-knife moves no 
faster but through a much greater space than the small 
one. Just so with the long, labored movements of my 
mind. I may not emit ideas as rapidly as others, because 
I am compelled by nature to speak slowly, but when I do 
throw off a thought it seems to me, though it comes with 
some effort, it has force enough to cut its own way and 
travel a greater distance." This was said to me when we 
were alone in our office simply for illustration. It was 
not said boastingly. 

As a specimen of Lincoln's method of reasoning I in- 
sert here the brief or notes of an argument used by him 
in a lawsuit as late as 1858. I copy from the original. 

"Legislation and adjudication must follow and conform to 
the progress of society. 

"The progress of society now begins to produce cases of 
the transfer for debts of the entire property of railroad cor- 
porations ; and to enable transferees to use and enjoy the 
transferred property legislation and adjudication begin to be 


"Shall this class of legislation just now beginning with us 
be general or special ? 

"Section Ten of our Constitution requires that it should be 
general, if possible. (Read the Section.) 

"Special legislation always trenches upon the judicial de- 
partment; and in so far violates Section Two of the Constitu- 
tion. (Read it.) 

"Just reasoning — policy — is in favor of general legislation — 
else the legislature will be loaded down with the investigation 
of smaller cases — a work which the courts ought to perform, 
and can perform much more perfectly. How can the Legisla- 
ture rightly decide the facts between P. & B. and S. C. & Co. 

"It is said that under a general law, whenever a R. R. Co. 
gets tired of its debts, it may transfer fraudulently to get rid 
of them. So they may — so may individuals; and which — 
the Legislature or the courts — is best suited to try the question 
of fraud in either case ? 

"It is said, if a purchaser have acquired legal rights, let 
him not be robbed of them, but if he needs legislation let him 
submit to just terms to obtain it. 

"Let him, say we, have general law in advance (guarded in 
every possible way against fraud), so that, when he acquires 
a legal right, he will have no occasion to wait for additional 
legislation ; and if he has practiced fraud let the courts so de- 

David Davis said this of Lincoln : "When in a lawsuit 
he believed his client was oppressed, — as in the Wright 
case, — he was hurtful in denunciation. When he at- 
tacked meanness, fraud, or vice, he was powerful, merci- 
less in his castigation." The Wright case referred to was 
a suit brought by Lincoln and myself to compel a pension 
agent to refund a portion of a fee which he had withheld 
from the widow of a revolutionary soldier. The entire 
pension was $400, of which sum the agent had retained 
one-half. The pensioner, an old woman crippled and bent 
with age, came hobbling into the office and told her story. 
It stirred Lincoln up, and he walked over to the agent's 
office and made a demand for a return of the money, but 
without success. Then suit was brought. The day before 
the trial I hunted up for Lincoln, at his request, a history 


of the Revolutionary War, of which he read a good por- 
tion. He told me to remain during the trial until I had 
heard his address to the jury. "For," said he, "I am going 
to skin Wright, and get that money back." The only wit- 
ness we introduced was the old lady, who through her 
tears told her story. In his speech to the jury, Lincoln 
recounted the causes leading to the outbreak of the Revo- 
lutionary struggle, and then drew a vivid picture of the 
hardships of Valley Forge, describing with minuteness 
the men, barefooted and with bleeding feet, creeping over 
the ice. As he reached that point in his speech wherein 
he narrated the hardened action of the defendant in fleecing 
the old woman of her pension his eyes flashed, and throw- 
ing aside his handkerchief, which he held in his right 
hand, he fairly launched into him. His speech for the 
next five or ten minutes justified the declaration of Davis, 
that he was "hurtful in denunciation and merciless in 
castigation." There was no rule of court to restrain him 
in his argument, and I never, either on the stump or on 
other occasions in court, saw him so wrought up. Be- 
fore he closed, he drew an ideal picture of the plaintiff's 
husband, the deceased soldier, parting with his wife at the 
threshold of their home, and kissing their little babe in 
the cradle, as he started for the war. "Time rolls by," he 
said in conclusion; "the heroes of '76 have passed away 
and are encamped on the other shore. The soldier has 
gone to rest, and now, crippled, blind, and broken, his 
widow comes to you and to me, gentlemen of the jury, to 
right her wrongs. She was not always thus. She was 
once a beautiful young woman. Her step was elastic, her 
face fair, and her voice as sweet as any that rang in the 
mountains of old Virginia. But now she is poor and de- 
fenseless. rOut here on the prairies of Illinois, many 
hundreds of miles away from the scenes of her childhood, 
she appeals to us, who enjoy the privileges achieved for us 
by the patriots of the Revolution, for our sympathetic aid 
and manly protection. All I ask is, shall we befriend her?" 
The speech made the desired impression on the jury. Half 
of them were in tears, while the defendant sat in the court 


room, drawn up and writhing under the fire of Lincoln's 
fierce invective. The jury returned a verdict in our favor 
for every cent we demanded. Lincoln was so much in- 
terested in the old lady that he became her surety for 
costs, paid her way home, and her hotel bill while she was 
in Springfield. When the judgment was paid we remitted 
the proceeds to her and made no charge for our services. 
Lincoln's notes for the argument were unique : "No con- 
tract. — Not professional services. — Unreasonable charge. 
— Money retained by Deft not given by Pl'ff. — Revolu- 
tionary War. — Describe Valley Forge privations. — Ice — 
Soldier's bleeding feet. — Pl'frs husband. — Soldier leaving 
home for army. — Skin Deft. — Close." 

It must not be inferred from this that Lincoln was in 
the habit of slopping over. He never hunted up acts 
of injustice, but if they came to him he was easily enlisted. 
In 1855 he was attending court at the town of Clinton, 
Illinois. Fifteen ladies from a neighboring village in the 
county had been indicated for trespass. Their offense con- 
sisted in sweeping down on one Tanner, the keeper of a 
saloon in the village, and knocking in the heads of his 
barrels. Lincoln was not employed in the case, but sat 
watching the trial as it proceeded. In defending the ladies 
their attorney seemed to evince a little want of tact, and this 
prompted one of the former to invite Mr. Lincoln to add 
a few words to the jury, if he thought he could aid their 
cause. He was too gallant to refuse and, their attorney 
having consented, he made use of the following argument : 
"In this case I would change the order of indictment and 
have it read The State vs. Mr. Whisky, instead of The 
State vs. The Ladies; and touching these there are three 
laws: The law of self -protection; the law of the land, or 
statute law ; and the moral law, or law of God. First, the 
law of self-protection is a law of necessity, as evinced by 
our forefathers in casting the tea overboard and asserting 
their right to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. 
In this case it is the only defense the ladies have, for 
Tanner neither feared God nor regarded man. Second, the 
law of the land, or statute law, and Tanner is recreant to 


both. Third, the moral law, or law of God, and this is 
probably a law for the violation of which the jury can 
fix no punishment." Lincoln gave some of his own obser- 
vations on the ruinous effects of whisky in society, and 
demanded its early suppression. After he had concluded, 
the Court, without awaiting the return of the jury, dis- 
missed the ladies, saying : "Ladies, go home. I will require 
no bond of you, and if any fine is ever wanted of you, we 
will let you know." 3 

After Lincoln's death a fellow-lawyer (Joseph Gillespie) 
paid this tribute to him : "He was wonderfully kind, care- 
ful, and just. He had an immense stock of common- 
sense, and he had ' faith enough in it to trust it in every 
emergency. Mr. Lincoln's love of justice and fair-play 
was his predominating trait. I have often listened to him 
when I thought he would certainly state his case out of 
court. It was not in his nature to assume or attempt to 
bolster up a false position. He would abandon his case 
first. He did so in the case of Buckmaster for the use 
of Dedham vs. Beemes and Arthur, in our Supreme Court, 
in which I happened to be opposed to him. Another gen- 
tleman, less fastidious, took Mr. Lincoln's place and gained 
the case." 

3 This case, The People vs. Elizabeth Shirtleff, Emily Lewis 
ct al., was tried on May 19, 1854, at Clinton, Illinois. A con- 
temporary newspaper report sets forth the facts as follows: "At 
the recent term of the DeWitt circuit court, there was an in- 
dictment found against nine ladies, from Marion, in said county, 
for a riot. The circumstances are as follows: A man by the 
name of Tanner, had recently moved in the town of Marion 
and started a 'doggery,' and was selling liquor to the inhabitants, 
much to the annoyance of the fair sex. The ladies called upon 
Mr. T. and requested him to desist his traffic of liquor, but to 
no avail. They then took the law in their own hands, and, in a 
quiet and respectful manner, took the liquor and turned it out 
upon the ground. At the trial, there were from one to two 
hundred ladies present. Col. Gridley prosecuted for Mr. Campbell, 
the latter being unable to attend to business. Messrs. Lincoln 
and Stewart defended the fair daughters of Adam. The 
jury found the perpetrators guilty and the court fined them in 
the sum of two dollars. Huzzah, for the Marion ladies." De- 
catur Gazette, clipped in Illinois State Register, May 27, 1854. 


"Early in 1858," says Joseph E. McDonald, "at Danville, 
Illinois, I met Lincoln, Swett, and others who had returned 
from court in an adjoining county, and were discussing 
the various features of a murder trial in which Lincoln 
had made a vigorous fight for the prosecution and Swett 
had defended. The plea of the defense was insanity. On 
inquiring the name of the defendant I was surprised to 
learn that it was my old friend Isaac Wyant, formerly of 
Indiana. I told them that I had been Wyant's counsel 
frequently and had defended him from almost every charge 
in the calendar of crimes ; and that he was a weak brother 
and could be led into almost everything. At once Lincoln 
began to manifest great interest in Wyant's history, and 
had to be told all about him. The next day on the way to 
the courthouse he told me he had been greatly troubled 
over what I related about Wyant; that his sleep had been 
disturbed by the fear that he had been too bitter and un- 
relenting in his prosecution of him. T acted/ he said, 'on 
the theory that he was "possuming" insanity, and now I 
fear I have been too severe and that the poor fellow may be 
insane after all. If he cannot realize the wrong of his 
? crime, then I was wrong in aiding to punish him.' " 4 

A widow who owned a piece of valuable land employed 
Lincoln and myself to examine the title to the property, 
with the view of ascertaining whether certain alleged tax 
liens were just or not. In tracing back the title we were 
not satisfied with the description of the ground in one of 
the deeds of conveyance. Lincoln, to settle the matter, 
took his surveying instruments and surveyed the ground 
himself. The result proved that Charles Matheny, a 
former grantor, had sold the land at so much per acre, but 
that in describing it he had made an error and conveyed 
more land than he received pay for. This land descended 
to our client, and Lincoln after a careful survey and cal- 
culation, decided that she ought to pay to Matheny's heirs 
the sum which he had shown was due them by reason of the 
erroneous conveyance. To this she entered strenuous ob- 
jections, but when assured that unless she consented to 

4 Original footnote. 


this act of plain justice we would drop the case, she finally, 
though with great reluctance, consented. She paid the 
required amount, and this we divided up into smaller sums 
proportioned to the number of heirs. Lincoln himself dis- 
tributed these to the heirs, obtaining a receipt from each 

[In the original edition Herndon printed the following 
letter as a footnote, describing it, without comment, as an 
undated manuscript written about 1866. 

"Dear Herndon : 

"One morning, not long before Lincoln's nomination — a 
year perhaps — I was in your office and heard the following: 
Mr. Lincoln, seated at the baize-covered table in the center 
of the office, listened attentively to a man who talked earnestly 
and in a low tone. After being thus engaged for some time 
Lincoln at length broke in, and I shall never forget his 
reply. 'Yes/ he said, 'we can doubtless gain your case for 
you; we can set a whole neighborhood at loggerheads; we 
can distress a widowed mother and her six fatherless children 
and thereby get for you six hundred dollars to which you seem 
to have a legal claim, but which rightfully belongs, it appears 
to me, as much to the woman and her children as it does to 
you. You must remember that some things legally right are 
not morally right. We shall not take your case, but will 
give you a little advice for which we will charge you nothing. 
You seem to be a sprightly, energetic man; we would advise 
you to try your hand at making six hundred dollars in some 
other way.' 



While Mr. Lincoln was no financier and had no pro- 
pensity to acquire property, — no avarice of the get, — yet 
he had the capacity of retention, or the avarice of the 
keep. He never speculated in lands or anything else. In 
the days of land offices and "choice lots in a growing town" 
he had many opportunities to make safe ventures promising 
good returns, but he never availed himself of them. 5 His 

5 Lincoln, nevertheless, owned more real estate than is generally 
realized. In addition to the land he sold soon after removing 


brother lawyers were making good investments and lucky 
turns, some of them, Davis, for example, were rapidly 
becoming wealthy; but Lincoln cared nothing for specula- 
tion ; in fact there was no venturesome spirit in him. His 
habits were very simple. He was not fastidious as to 
food or dress. His hat was brown, faded, and the nap 
usually worn or rubbed off. He wore a short cloak and 
sometimes a shawl. His coat and vest hung loosely on his 
gaunt frame, and his trousers were invariably too short. 
On the circuit he carried in one hand a faded green um- 
brella, with "A. Lincoln" in large white cotton or muslin 
letters sewed on the inside. The knob was gone from the 
handle, and when closed a piece of cord was usually tied 
around it in the middle to keep it from flying open. In the 
other hand he carried a literal carpet-bag, in which were 
stored the few papers to be used in court, and undercloth- 
ing enough to last till his return to Springfield. He slept 
in a long, coarse, yellow flannel shirt, which reached half- 
way between his knees and ankles. It probably was not 
made to fit his bony figure as completely as Beau Brum- 
mel's shirt, and hence we can somewhat appreciate the 
sensation of a young lawyer who, on seeing him thus 
arrayed for the first time, observed afterwards that, "He 
was the ungodliest figure I ever saw." 

"He never complained of the food, bed, or lodgings. If 
every other fellow grumbled at the bill-of-fare which 
greeted us at many of the dingy taverns," says David 
Davis, "Lincoln said nothing." He was once presiding as 
judge in the absence of Davis, and the case before him 
was an action brought by a merchant against the father of 
a minor son for a suit of clothes sold to the son without 
paternal authority. The real question was whether the 
clothes were necessary, and suited to the condition of the 
son's life. The father was a wealthy farmer ; the bill for 

to Springfield (see p. 99 n.) he owned several Springfield town 
lots, one in Lincoln and two in Bloomington for a number of 
years, besides 120 acres in Iowa and a dower right in 80 acres 
in Sangamon county which Mrs. Lincoln owned. Bulletins 16 and 
17, The Abraham Lincoln Association. 


the clothing was twenty-eight dollars. I happened in court 
just as Lincoln was rendering his decision. He ruled 
against the plea of necessity. "I have rarely in my life," 
said he, "worn a suit of clothes costing twenty-eight dol- 

"Several of us lawyers," remarked one of his colleagues, 
"in the eastern end of the circuit annoyed Lincoln once 
while he was holding court for Davis by attempting to de- 
fend against a note to which there were many makers. 
We had no legal, but a good moral defense, but what we 
wanted most of all was to stave it off till the next term of 
court by one expedient or another. We bothered 'the 
court' about it till late on Saturday, the day of adjourn- 
ment. He adjourned for supper with nothing- left but this 
case to dispose of. After supper he heard our twaddle for 
nearly an hour, and then made this odd entry: 'L. D. 
Chaddon vs. J. D. Beasley et al. April term, 1856. Cham- 
paign County Court. Plea in abatement by B. Z. Green, a 
defendant not served, filed Saturday at 11 o'clock A. M., 
April 24, 1856, stricken from the files by order of court. 
Demurrer to declaration, if there ever was one, overruled. 
Defendants who are served now, at 8 o'clock, P. M., of the 
last day of the term, ask to plead to the merits, which is 
denied by the court on the ground that the offer comes too 
late, and therefore, as by nil dicet, judgment is rendered for 
Pl'ff. Clerk assess damages. A. Lincoln, Judge pro 
tern?" The lawyer who reads this singular entry will 
appreciate its oddity if no one else does. After making it 
one of the lawyers, on recovering from his astonishment, 
ventured to inquire, "Well, Lincoln, how can we get this 
case up again?" Lincoln eyed him quizzically a moment, 
and then answered, "You have all been so 'mighty smart 
about this case you can find out how to take it up again 

"During my first attendance at court in Menard County," 
relates a lawyer who traveled the circuit with Lincoln, 
"some thirty^ young men had been indicted for playing 
cards, and Lincoln and I were employed in their defense. 
The prosecuting attorney, in framing the indictments, al- 


ternately charged the defendants with playing a certain 
game of cards called 'seven-up,' and in the next bill charged 
them with playing cards at a certain game called 'old 
sledge.' Four defendants were indicted in each bill. The 
prosecutor, being entirely unacquainted with games at 
cards, did not know the fact that both 'seven-up' and 'old 
sledge' were one and the same. Upon the trial on the 
bills describing the game as 'seven-up' our witnesses would 
swear that the game played was 'old sledge,' and vice versa 
on the bills alleging the latter. The result was an acquittal 
in every case under the instructions of the Court. The 
prosecutor never found out the dodge until the trials were 
over, and immense fun and rejoicing were indulged in at 
the result.", 6 ' ' 

The same gentleman who furnishes the incident concern- 
ing Lincoln on the bench, and who was afterwards a trusted 
friend of Mr. Lincoln, Henry C. Whitney, has described 
most happily the delights of a life on the circuit. A bit of 
it, referring to Lincoln, I apprehend, cannot be deemed 
out of place here. "In October, 1854, Abraham Lin- 
coln," he relates, "drove into our town (Urbana) to attend 
court. He had the appearance of a rough, intelligent 
farmer, and his rude, home-made buggy and raw-boned 
horse enforced this belief. I had met him for the first 
time in June of the same year. David Davis and Leonard 
Swett had just preceded him. The next morning he started 
North, on the Illinois Central Railroad, and as he went in 
an old omnibus he played on a boy's harp all the way to 
the depot. I used to attend the Danville court, and while 
there, usually roomed with Lincoln and Davis. We stopped 
at McCormick's hotel, an old-fashioned frame country 
tavern. Jurors, counsel, prisoners, everybody ate at a long 
table. The judge, Lincoln, and I had the ladies' parlor 
fitted up with two beds. Lincoln, Swett, McWilliams, of 
Bloomington, Voorhees, of Covington, Ind., O. L. Davis, 
Drake, Ward Lamon, Lawrence, Beckwith, and O. F. 
Harmon, of Danville, Whiteman, of Iroquois County, and 
Chandler, of Williamsport, Ind., constituted the bar. Lin- 

6 Original footnote. 


coin, Davis, Swett, I, and others who came from the west- 
ern part of the state would drive from Urbana. The 
distance was thirty-six miles. We sang and exchanged 
stories all the way. We had no hesitation in stopping at 
a farmhouse and ordering them to kill and cook a chicken 
for dinner. By dark we reached Danville. Lamon would 
have whisky in his office for the drinking ones, and those 
who indulged in petty gambling would get by themselves 
and play till late in the night. Lincoln, Davis, and a few 
local wits would spend the evening in Davis's room, talking 
politics, wisdom, and fun. Lincoln and Swett were the 
great lawyers, and Lincoln always wanted Swett in jury 
cases. We who stopped at the hotel would all breakfast 
together and frequently go out into the woods and hold 
court. We were of more consequence than a court and bar 
is now. The feelings were those of great fraternity in 
the bar, and if we desired to restrict our circle it was no 
trouble for Davis to freeze out any disagreeable persons. 
Lincoln was fond of going all by himself to any little 
show or concert. I have known him to slip away and 
spend the entire evening at a little magic lantern show 
intended for children. A travelling concert company, 
calling themselves the 'Newhall Family,' were sure of 
drawing Lincoln. One of their number, Mrs. Hillis, a 
good singer, he used to tell us was the only woman who 
ever seemed to exhibit any liking for him. I attended a 
negro-minstrel show in Chicago, where we heard Dixie 
sung. It was entirely new, and pleased him greatly. In 
court he was irrepressible and apparently inexhaustible 
in his fund of stories. Where in the world a man who had 
travelled so little and struggled amid the restrictions of 
such limited surroundings could gather up such apt and 
unique yarns we never could guess. Davis appreciated 
Lincoln's talent in this direction, and was always ready 
to stop business to hear one of his stories. Lincoln was 
very bashful when in the presence of ladies. I remember 
once we were invited to take tea at a friend's house, and 
while in the parlor I was called to the front gate to see a 
client. When I returned, Lincoln, who had undertaken 


to entertain the ladies, was twisting and squirming in his 
chair, and as bashful as a schoolboy. Everywhere, though 
we met a hard crowd at every court, and though things 
were free and easy, we were treated with great respect.'^J 
Probably the most important lawsuit Lincoln and I con- 
ducted was one in which we defended the Illinois Central 
Railroad in an action brought by McLean County, Illinois, 
in August, 1853, to recover taxes alleged to be due the 
county from the road. The Legislature had granted the 
road immunity from taxation, and this was a case intended 
to test the constitutionality of the law. The road sent a 
retainer fee of $250. In the lower court the case was 
decided in favor of the railroad. An appeal to the Su- 
preme Court followed, and there it was argued twice, and 
finally decided in our favor. This last decision was ren- 
dered some time in 1855. Mr. Lincoln soon went to Chi- 
cago and presented our bill for legal services. We only 
asked for $2,000 more. The official to whom he was re- 
ferred, — supposed to have been the superintendent George 
B. McClellan who afterwards became the eminent general, 
— looking at the bill expressed great surprise. "Why, sir," 
he exclaimed, "this is as much as Daniel Webster himself 
would have charged. We cannot allow such a claim." 
Stung by the rebuff, Lincoln withdrew the bill, and started 
for home. On the way he stopped at Bloomington. There 
he met Grant Goodrich, Archibald Williams, Norman B. 
Judd, O. H. Browning, and other attorneys, who, on learn- 
ing of his modest charge for such valuable services ren- 
dered the railroad, induced him to increase the demand to 
$5,000, and to bring suit for that sum. This was done at 
once. On the trial six lawyers certified that the bill was 
reasonable, and judgment for that sum went by default. 
The judgment was promptly paid. Lincoln gave me my 
half, and much as we deprecated the avarice of great cor- 
porations, we both thanked the Lord for letting the Illinois 
Central Railroad fall into our hands. 7 ^_ 

7 Herndon's account of this litigation is at fault in its chronol- 
ogy. The tax suit was first argued in the Supreme Court on Feb- 
ruary 28, 1854, and again on January 16 and 17, 1856. On June 18, 


In the summer of 1857 Lincoln was employed by one 
Manny, of Chicago, to defend him in an action brought 
by McCormick, 8 who was the inventor of the reaping 
machine, for infringement of patent. Lincoln had been 
recommended to Manny by E. B. Washburne, then a mem- 
ber of Congress from northern Illinois. The case was to 
be tried before Judge McLean at Cincinnati, in the Circuit 
Court of the United States. The counsel for McCormick 
was Reverdy Johnson. Edwin M. Stanton and George 
Harding, of Philadelphia, were associated on the other 
side with Lincoln. The latter came to Cincinnati a few 
days before the argument took place, and stopped at the 
house of a friend. "The case was one of great importance 
pecuniarily," relates a lawyer in Cincinnati (W. M. Dick- 
son), who was a member of the bar at the time, "and in 
the law questions involved. Reverdy Johnson represented 
the plaintiff. Mr. Lincoln had prepared himself with the 
greatest care ; his ambition was up to speak in the case and 
to measure swords with the renowned lawyer from Balti- 
more. It was understood between his client and himself 
before his coming that Mr. Harding, of Philadelphia, was 
to be associated with him in the case, and was to make the 
'mechanical argument.' After reaching Cincinnati, Mr. Lin- 
coln was a little surprised and annoyed to learn that his 
client had also associated with him Mr. Edwin M. Stanton, 
of Pittsburgh, and a lawyer of our own bar, the reason 
assigned being that the importance of the case required a 
man of the experience and power of Mr. Stanton to meet 
Mr. Johnson. The Cincinnati lawyer was appointed for 
his 'local influence.' These reasons did not remove the 
slight conveyed in the employment without consultation 
with him of this additional counsel. He keenly felt it, 
but acquiesced. The trial of the case came on ; the coun- 
sel for defense met each morning for consultation. On one 

1857, in the McLean Circuit Court, Lincoln obtained judgment for 
his fee. On the same day the judgment was set aside and trial set 
for June 23, when judgment was again entered in his favor. 

8 McCormick vs. Manny, tried at Cincinnati in September, 
1855. Lincoln was retained in the early summer of that same 


of these occasions one of the counsel moved that only two 
of them should speak in the case. This matter was also 
acquiesced in. It had always been understood that Mr. 
Harding was to speak to explain the mechanism of the 
reapers. So this motion excluded either Mr. Lincoln or 
Mr. Stanton, — which? By the custom of the bar, as be- 
tween counsel of equal standing, and in the absence of any 
action of the client, the original counsel speaks. By this 
rule Mr. Lincoln had precedence. Mr. Stanton suggested 
to Mr. Lincoln to make the speech. Mr. Lincoln an- 
swered. 'No, you speak/ Mr. Stanton replied, 'I will/ 
and taking up his hat, said he would go and make prepara- 
tion. Mr. Lincoln acquiesced in this, but was greatly 
grieved and mortified; he took but little more interest in 
the case, though remaining until the conclusion of the trial. 
He seemed to be greatly depressed, and gave evidence 
of that tendency to melancholy which so marked his char- 
acter. His parting on leaving the city cannot be forgotten. 
Cordially shaking the hand of his hostess he said : 'You 
have made my stay here most agreeable, and I am a thou- 
sand times obliged to you; but in reply to your request 
for me to come again, I must say to you I never expect to 
be in Cincinnati again. I have nothing against the city, but 
things have so happened here as to make it undesirable for 
me ever to return.' Lincoln felt that Stanton had not only 
been very discourteous to him, but had purposely ignored 
him in the case, and that he had received rather rude, if 
not unkind, treatment from all hands. Stanton, in his 
brusque and abrupt way, it is said, described him as a 'long, 
lank creature from Illinois, wearing a dirty linen duster 
for a coat, on the back of which the perspiration had 
splotched wide stains that resembled a map of the con- 
tinent.' Mr. Lincoln," adds Mr. Dickson, "remained in 
Cincinnati about a week, moving freely around, yet not 
twenty men knew him personally or knew he was here; 
not a hundred would have known who he was had his 
name been given to them. He came with the fond hope 
of making fame in a forensic contest with Reverdy John- 
son. He was pushed aside, humiliated and mortified. He 


attached to the innocent city the displeasure that filled his 
bosom, and shook its dust from his feet." On his return 
to Springfield he was somewhat reticent regarding the 
trial, and, contrary to his custom, communicated to his 
associates at the bar but few of its incidents. He told 
me that he had been "roughly handled by that man Stan- 
ton" ; that he overheard the latter from an adjoining room, 
while the door was slightly ajar, referring to Lincoln, in- 
quire of another, "Where did that long-armed creature 
come from, and what can he expect to do in this case?" 
During the trial Lincoln formed a poor opinion of Judge 
McLean. He characterized him as an "old granny," with 
considerable vigor of mind, but no perception at all. "If 
you were to point your finger at him," he put it, "and a 
darning needle at the same time he never would know 
which was the sharpest." 

As Lincoln grew into public favor and achieved such 
marked success in the profession, half the bar of Spring- 
field began to be envious of his growing popularity. I 
believe there is less jealousy and bitter feeling among 
lawyers than professional men of any other class ; but it 
should be borne in mind that in that early day a portion 
of the bar in every county seat, if not a majority of the 
lawyers everywhere, were politicians. Stuart frequently 
differed from Lincoln on political questions, and was full 
of envy. Likewise those who coincided with Lincoln in 
his political views were disturbed in the same way. Even 
Logan was not wholly free from the degrading passion. 
But in this respect Lincoln suffered no more than other 
great characters who preceded him in the world's history. 

That which Lincoln's adversaries in a lawsuit feared 
most of all was his apparent disregard of custom or pro- 
fessional propriety in managing a case before a jury. He 
brushed aside all rules, and very often resorted to some 
strange and strategic performance which invariably broke 
his opponent down or exercised some peculiar influence 
over the jury. Hence the other side in a case were in con- 
stant fear of one of his dramatic strokes, or trembled 
lest he should "ring in" some ingeniously planned inter- 


ruption not on the programme. In a case where Judge 
Logan — always earnest and grave — opposed him, Lincoln 
created no little merriment by his reference to Logan's 
style of dress. He carried the surprise in store for the lat- 
ter, till he reached his turn before the jury. Addressing 
them, he said: "Gentlemen, you must be careful and not 
permit yourselves to be overcome by the eloquence of 
counsel for the defense. Judge Logan, I know, is an ef- 
fective lawyer. I have met him too often to doubt that ; 
but shrewd and careful though he be, still he is sometimes 
wrong. Since this trial has begun I have discovered that, 
with all his caution and fastidiousness, he hasn't knowl- 
edge enough to put his shirt on right." Logan turned red 
as crimson, but sure enough, Lincoln was correct, for 
the former had donned a new shirt, and by mistake had 
drawn it over his head with the pleated bosom behind. 
The general laugh which followed destroyed the effect of 
Logan's eloquence over the jury — the very point at which 
Lincoln aimecLJ 

The trial of William Armstrong 9 for the murder of 
James P. Metzger, in May, 1858, at Beardstown, Illinois, 
in which Lincoln secured the' acquittal of the defendant, 
was one of the gratifying triumphs in his career as a 
lawyer. Lincoln's defense, wherein he floored the prin- 
cipal prosecuting witness, who had testified positively to 
seeing the fatal blow struck in the moonlight, by showing 
from an almanac that the moon had set, was not more 
convincing than his eloquent and irresistible appeal in his 
client's favor. The latter's mother, old Hannah Arm- 
strong, the friend of his youth, had solicited him to de- 
fend her son. "He told the jury," relates the prosecuting 
attorney, "of his once being a poor, friendless boy; that 
Armstrong's parents took him into their house, fed and 
clothed him, and gave him a home. There were tears 
in his eyes as he spoke. The sight of his tall, quivering 
frame, and the particulars of the story he so pathetically 
told, moved the jury to tears also, and they forgot the 
guilt of the defendant in their admiration of his advo- 
9 Duff Armstrong 


cate. It was the most touching scene I ever witnessed. " 
Before passing it may be well to listen to the humble 
tribute of old Hannah Armstrong, the defendant's mother : 
"Lincoln had said to me, 'Hannah, your son will be cleared 
before sundown.' I left the court-room, and they came 
and told me that my son was cleared and a free man. I 
went up to the courthouse. The jury shook hands with 
me; so did the judge and Lincoln; tears streamed down 
Lincoln's eyes. . . . After the trial I asked him what his 
fee would be; told him I was poor. 'Why, Hannah,' he 
said, 'I sha'n't charge you a cent, and anything else I can 
do for you, will do it willingly and without charge.' He 
afterwards wrote to me about a piece of land which cer- 
tain men were trying to get from me, and said : 'Hannah, 
they can't get your land. Let them try it in the Circuit 
Court, and then you appeal it; bring it to the Supreme 
Court and I and Herndon will attend to it for nothing.' ' 

The last suit of any importance in which Lincoln was 
personally engaged, was known as the Johnson sand-bar 
case. It involved the title to certain lands, the accretion 
on the shores of Lake Michigan, in or near Chicago. It 
was tried in the United States Circuit Court at Chicago 
in April and May, 1860. During the trial, the Court — 
Judge Drummond — and all the counsel on both sides dined 
at the residence of Isaac N. Arnold, afterwards a mem- 
ber of Congress. "Douglas and Lincoln," relates Mr. Ar- 
nold, "were at the time both candidates for the nomination 
for President. There were active and ardent political 
friends of each at the table, and when the sentiment was 
proposed, 'May Illinois furnish the next President,' it was 
drank with enthusiasm by the friends of both Lincoln 
and Douglas." } 

I could fifl tnis volume with reminiscences of Lincoln's 
career as a lawyer, but lest the reader should tire of what 
must savor in many cases of monotony it is best to move 
on. I have made this portion of the book rather full ; 
but as Lincoln's individuality and peculiarities were more 
marked in the law office and court-room than anywhere 
else it will play its part in making up the picture of the 


man. Enough has been told to show how, in the face of 
adverse fortune and the lack of early training and by force 
of his indomitable will and self-confidence, he gained such 
ascendency among the lawyers of Illinois. The reader is 
enabled thereby to understand the philosophy of his 

But now another field is preparing to claim him. There 
will soon be great need for his clear reason, masterly mind 
and heroic devotion to principle. The distant mutterings 
of an approaching contest are driving scattered factions 
into a union of sentiment and action. As the phalanxes 
of warriors are preparing for action, amid the rattle of 
forensic musketry, Lincoln, their courageous leader, 
equipped for battle, springs into view. 



law from the time his career in Congress closed till, to 
use his own words, "the repeal of the Missouri Compro- 
mise aroused him again," yet he was a careful student of 
his times and kept abreast of the many and varied move- 
ments in politics. He was generally on the Whig elec- 
toral tickets, and made himself heard during each succes- 
sive canvass, but he seemed to have lost that zealous in- 
terest in politics which characterized his earlier days. He 
plodded on unaware of, and seemingly without ambition 
for, the great distinction that lay in store for him. 

In the campaign of 1852, when Pierce was the Demo- 
cratic candidate for President, Douglas made speeches for 
him in almost every State in the Union. His "key-note" 
was sounded at Richmond, Va. Lincoln, whose reputation 
was limited by the boundaries of Illinois, was invited by 
the Scott Club of Springfield to answer it, but his soul 
and heart were not in the undertaking. He had not yet 
awakened, and, considering it entire, the speech was a 
poor effort. Another 1 has truthfully said of it, "If it was 
distinguished by one quality above another, it was by its 
attempts at humor; and all those attempts were strained 
and affected, as well as very coarse. He displayed a jealous 
and petulant temper from the first sentence to the last, 
wholly beneath the dignity of the occasion and the im- 
portance of the topic. Considered as a whole, it may be 
said that none of his public performances was more un- 
worthy of its really noble author than this one." The 

1 Lamon, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, pp. 340-41. Original 


closing paragraph will serve as fair sample of the entire 
speech: "Let us stand by our candidate [General Scott] as 
faithfully as he has always stood by our country, and I 
much doubt if we do not perceive a slight abatement of 
Judge Douglas's confidence in Providence as well as the 
people. I suspect that confidence is not more firmly fixed 
with the Judge than it was with the old woman whose horse 
ran away with her in a buggy. She said she trusted in Prov-, 
idence till the 'britchen' broke, and then she didn't know 
what on 'airth' to do. The chance is the Judge will see 
the 'britchen' broke, and then he can at his leisure bewail 
the fate of Locofocoism as the victim of misplaced con- 

John T. Stuart relates that, as he and Lincoln were re- 
turning from the court in Tazewell County in 1850, and 
were nearing the little town of Dillon, they engaged in a 
discussion of the political situation. "As we were coming 
down the hill," are Stuart's words, "I said, 'Lincoln, the 
time is coming when we shall have to be all either Aboli- 
tionists or Democrats.' He thought a moment and then 
answered, ruefully and emphatically, 'When that time 
comes my mind is made up, for I believe the slavery ques- 
tion can never be successfully compromised.' I responded 
with equal emphasis, 'My mind is made up too'." Thus 
it was with Lincoln. But he was too slow to suit the im- 
petuous demand of the few pronounced Abolitionists 
whom he met in his daily walks. The sentiment of the 
majority in Springfield tended in the other direction, and 
thus environed, Lincoln lay down like the sleeping lion. 
The future would yet arouse him. At that time I was an 
ardent Abolitionist in sentiment. I used to warn Lincoln 
against his apparent conservatism when the needs of the 
hour were so great ; but his only answer would be, "Billy, 
you're too rampant and spontaneous." I was in corre- 
spondence with Sumner, Greely, Phillips, and Garrison, 
and was thus thoroughly imbued with all the rancor drawn 
from such strong anti-slavery sources. I adhered to Lin- 
coln, relying on the final outcome of his sense of justice 
and right. Every time a good speech on the great issue 


was made I sent for it. Hence you could find on my 
table the latest utterances of Giddings, Phillips, Sumner, 
Seward, and one whom I considered grander than all the 
others — Theodore Parker. Lincoln and I took such papers 
as the Chicago Tribune, New York Tribune, Anti-Slavery 
Standard, Emancipator, and National Era. On the other 
side of the question we took the Charleston Mercury and 
the Richmond Enquirer. I also bought a book called 
"Sociology," written by one Fitzhugh, which defended and 
justified slavery in every conceivable way. In addition 
I purchased all the leading histories of the slavery move- 
ment, and other works which treated on that subject. Lin- 
coln himself never bought many books, but he and I both 
read those I have named. After reading them we would 
discuss the questions they touched upon and the ideas they 
suggested, from our different points of view. I was never 
conscious of having made much of an impression on Mr. 
Lincoln, nor do I believe I ever changed his views. I will 
go further and say, that, from the profound nature of 
his conclusions and the labored method by which he ar- 
rived at them, no man is entitled to the credit of having 
either changed or greatly modified them. I remember 
once, after having read one of Theodore Parker's ser- 
mons on slavery, saying to Mr. Lincoln substantially this : 
"I have always noticed that ill-gotten wealth does no man 
any good. This is as true of nations as individuals. I 
believe that all the ill-gotten gain wrenched by us from 
the negro through his enslavement will eventually be taken 
from us, and we will be set back where we began." Lin- 
coln thought my prophecy rather direful. He doubted 
seriously if either of us would live to see the righting of 
so great a wrong; but years after, when writing his sec- 
ond Inaugural address, he endorsed the idea. Clothing it 
in the most beautiful language, he says : "Yet if God wills 
that it [the war] continue till all the wealth piled by the 
bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited 
toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by 
the lash shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as 
was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, 


"The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous alto- 

The passage in May, 1854, of the Kansas-Nebraska bill 
swept out of sight the Missouri Compromise and the Com- 
promise measures of 1850. This bill, designed and carried 
through by Douglas, was regarded by him as the master- 
piece of all his varied achievements in legislation. It 
served to prove more clearly than anything he had ever 
before done his flexibility and want of political conscience. 
Although in years gone before he had invoked the ven- 
geance of Heaven on the ruthless hand that should dare 
to disturb the sanctity of the compact of 1821, yet now 
he was the arrogant and audacious leader in the very work 
he had so heartily condemned. When we consider the bill 
and the unfortunate results which followed it in the border 
States we are irresistibly led to conclude that it was, all 
things considered, a great public wrong and a most la- 
mentable piece of political jugglery. The stump speech 
which Thomas H. Benton charged that Douglas had "in- 
jected into the belly of the bill" contains all there was of 
Popular Sovereignty — "It being the true intent and mean- 
ing of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or 
State nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people 
thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic 
insitutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitu- 
tion of the United States," an argument which, using Lin- 
coln's words, "amounts to this : That if any one man 
chooses to enslave another no third man shall be allowed 
to object." The widespread feeling the passage of this 
law aroused everywhere over the Union is a matter of 
general history. It stirred up in New England the latent 
hostility to the aggression of slavery; it stimulated to 
extraordinary endeavors the derided Abolitionists, arming 
them with new weapons ; it sounded the death-knell of 
the gallant old Whig party; it drove together strange, 
discordant elements in readiness to light a common enemy ; 
it brought to the forefront a leader in the person of Lin- 

Tne revolt of Cook, Judd, and Palmer, all young and 


progressive, from the Democratic majority in the Legis- 
lature was the first sign of discontent in Illinois. The 
rude and partly hostile reception of Douglas, on his ar- 
rival in Chicago, did not in any degree tend to allay the 
feeling of disapproval so general in its manifestation. The 
warriors, young and old, removed their armor from the 
walls, and began preparations for the impending conflict. 
Lincoln had made a few speeches in aid of Scott during" 
the campaign of 1852, but they were efforts entirely un- 
worthy of the man. Now, however, a live issue was pre- 
sented to him. No one realized this sooner than he. In 
the office discussions he grew bolder in his utterances. He 
insisted that the social and political difference between 
slavery and freedom was becoming more marked ; that one 
must overcome the other ; and that postponing the struggle 
between them would only make it the more deadly in the 
end. "The day of compromise," he still contended, "has 
passed. These two great ideas have been kept apart only 
by the most artful means. They are like two wild beasts 
in sight of each other, but chained and held apart. Some 
day these deadly antagonists will one or the other break 
their bonds, and then the question will be settled." In a 
conversation with a fellow-lawyer (Joseph Gillespie) he 
said of slavery : "It is the most glittering, ostentatious, and 
displaying property in the world, and now, if a young man 
goes courting, the only inquiry is how many negroes he or 
his lady-love owns. The love for slave property is swal- 
lowing up every other mercenary possession. Slavery is 
a great and crying injustice — an enormous national crime." 
At another time he made the observation that it was 
"singular that the courts would hold that a man never lost 
his right to his property that had been stolen from him, but 
that he instantly lost his right to himself if he was stolen." 
It is useless to add more evidence — for it could be piled 
mountain high — showing that at the very outset Mr. Lin- 
coln was sound to the core on the injustice and crime of 
human slavery. 

After a brief rest at his home in Chicago Mr. Douglas 
betook himself to the country, and in October, during the 


week of the State Fair, we find him in Springfield. On 
Tuesday he made a speech in the State House which, in 
view of the hostile attitude of some of his own party- 
friends, was a labored defense of his position. It was 
full of ingenious sophistry and skilful argument. An 
unprecedented concourse of people had gathered from all 
parts of the State, and Douglas, fresh from the halls of 
Congress, was the lion of the hour. On the following 
day Mr. Lincoln, as the champion of the opponents of 
Popular Sovereignty, was selected to represent those who 
disagreed with ,the new legislation, and to answer Douglas. 
His speech encouraged his friends no less than it startled 
his enemies. At this time I was zealously interested in 
the new movement, and not less so in Lincoln. I fre- 
quently wrote the editorials in the Springfield Journal, 
the editor, Simeon Francis, giving to Lincoln and to me 
the utmost liberty in that direction. Occasionally Lin- 
coln would write out matter for publication, but I believe 
I availed myself of the privilege oftener than he. The 
editorial in the issue containing the speeches of Lincoln 
and Douglas on this occasion was my own, and while in 
description it may seem rather strongly imbued with 
youthful enthusiasm, yet on reading it in maturer years 
I am still inclined to believe it reasonably faithful to the 
facts and the situation. "The anti-Nebraska speech of 
Mr. Lincoln," says the article, "was the profoundest in 
our opinion that he has made in his whole life. He felt 
upon his soul the truths burn which he uttered, and all 
present felt that he was true to his own soul. His feelings 
once or twice swelled within, and came near stifling utter- 
ance. He quivered with emotion. The whole house was 
as still as death. He attacked the Nebraska bill with unusual 
warmth and energy; and all felt that a man of strength 
was its enemy, and that he intended to blast it if he could 
by strong and manly efforts. He was most successful, 
and the house approved the glorious triumph of truth by 
loud and continued huzzas. Women waved their white 
handkerchiefs in token of woman's silent but heartfelt 
assent. Douglas felt the sting ; the animal within him was 


roused because he frequently interrupted Mr. Lincoln. 
His friends felt that he was crushed by Lincoln's powerful 
argument, manly logic, and illustrations from nature 
around us. The Nebraska bill was shivered, and like a 
tree of the forest was torn and rent asunder by the hot 
bolts of truth. Mr. Lincoln exhibited Douglas in all the 
attitudes he could be placed, in a friendly debate. He ex- 
hibited the bill in all its aspects to show its humbuggery 
and falsehood, and, when thus torn to rags, cut into slips, 
held up to the gaze of the vast crowd, a kind of scorn 
and mockery was visible upon the face of the crowd and 
upon the lips of their most eloquent speaker. At the con- 
clusion of this speech every man and child felt that it was 
unanswerable. He took the heart captive and broke like a 
sun over the understanding." 

Anent the subject of editorial writing it may not be 
inappropriate to relate that Lincoln and I both kept on 
furnishing political matter of many varieties for the 
Springfield Journal until 1860. Many of the editorials 
that I wrote were intended directly or indirectly to pro- 
mote the interest of Lincoln. I wrote one on the advis- 
ability of annexing Cuba to the United States, taking the 
rather advanced ground that slavery would be abolished 
in Cuba before it would in this country — a position which 
aroused no little controversy with other papers. One little 
incident occurs to me in this connection which may not 
be without interest to newspaper men. A newspaper had 
been started in Springfield called the Conservative, which, 
it was believed, was being run in the interest of the Demo- 
cratic party. While pretending to support Fillmore it was 
kept alive by Buchanan men and other kindred spirits, who 
were somewhat pro-slavery in their views. The thing 
was damaging Lincoln and the friends of freedom more 
than an avowed Democratic paper could. The editor, an 
easy, good-natured fellow, simply placed in charge to exe- 
cute the will of those who gave the paper its financial 
backing, was a good friend of mine, and by means of 
this friendship I was always well informed of matters in 
the Conservative editorial room. One day I read in the 


Richmond Enquirer an article endorsing slavery, and 
arguing that from principle the enslavement of either 
whites or blacks was justifiable and right. I showed it to 
Lincoln who remarked that it was "rather rank doctrine 
for Northern Democrats to endorse. I should like to 
see," he said, with emphasis, "some of these Illinois news- 
papers champion that." I told him if he would only wait 
and keep his own counsel I would have a pro- slavery organ 
in Springfield publish that very article. He doubted it, 
but when I told him how it was to be done he laughed 
and said, "Go in." I cut the slip out and succeeded in 
getting it in the paper named. Of course it was a trick, 
but it acted admirably. Its appearance in the new organ, 
although without comment, almost ruined that valuable 
journal, and my good-natured friend the editor was nearly 
overcome by the denunciation of those who were respon- 
sible for the organ's existence. My connection, and Lin- 
coln's too, — for he endorsed the trick, — with the publica- 
tion of the condemned article was eventually discovered, 
and we were thereafter effectually prevented from getting 
another line in the paper. The anti-slavery people quoted 
the article as having been endorsed by a Democratic news- 
paper in Springfield, and Lincoln himself used it with 
telling effect. He joined in the popular denunciation, 
expressing great astonishment that such a sentiment could 
find lodgment in any paper in Illinois, although he knew 
full well how the whole thing had been carried through. 
During the remainder of the State-Fair week, speeches 
were made by Lyman Trumbull, Sidney Breese, E. D. 
Taylor, and John Calhoun, none of which unfortunately 
have been preserved. Among those who mingled in the 
crowd and listened to them was Owen Lovejoy, a radical, 
fiery, brave, fanatical man, it may be, but one full of the 
virus of Abolitionism. I had been thoroughly inoculated 
with the latter myself, and so had many others, who helped 
to swell the throng. The Nebraska movement had kin- 
dled anew the old zeal, and inspired us with renewed 
confidence to begin the crusade. As many of us as could, 
assembled together to organize for the campaign before 


us. As soon therefore as Lincoln finished his speech in 
the hall of the House of Representatives, Lovejoy, moving 
forward from the crowd, announced a meeting in the same 
place that evening of all the friends of Freedom. That of 
course meant the Abolitionists with whom I had been in 
conference all the day. Their plan had been to induce 
Mr. Lincoln to speak for them at their meeting. Strong 
as I was in the faith, yet I doubted the propriety of Lin- 
coln's taking any stand yet. As I viewed it, he was am- 
bitious to climb to the United States Senate, and on 
grounds of policy it would not do for him to occupy at 
that time such advanced ground as we were taking. On 
the other hand, it was equally as dangerous to refuse a 
speech for the Abolitionists. I did not know how he felt 
on the subject, but on learning that Lovejoy intended to 
approach him with an invitation, I hunted up Lincoln and 
urged him to avoid meeting the enthusiastic champion of 
Abolitionism. "Go home at once," I said. "Take Bob 
with you and drive somewhere into the country and stay 
till this thing is over." Whether my admonition and 
reasoning moved him or not I do not know, but it only 
remains to state that under pretence of having business in 
Tazewell County he drove out of town in his buggy, and 
did not return till the apostles of Abolitionism had sepa- 
rated and gone to their homes. 2 I have always believed 
this little arrangement — it would dignify it too much to 
call it a plan — saved Lincoln. If he had endorsed the 
resolutions passed at the meeting, or spoken simply in 

2 In the Ottawa debate Lincoln made the following reference 
to this incident: "I believe this is true about those resolutions. 
There was a call for a Convention to form a Republican party 
at Springfield, and I think that my friend Mr. Lovejoy, who is 
here upon this stand, had a hand in it. I think this is true, and 
I think if he will remember accurately, he will be able to recollect 
that he tried to get me into it, and I would not go in. I believe 
it is also true that I went away from Springfield when the Con- 
vention was in session, to attend court in Tazewell County. It 
is true they did place my name, though without authority upon 
the committee, and afterward wrote me to attend the meeting of 
the committee ; but I refused to do so, and I never had anything 
to do with that organization." 


favor of freedom that night, he would have been identi- 
fied with all the rancor and extremes of Abolitionism. 
If, on the contrary, he had been invited to join them, and 
then had refused to take a position as advanced as theirs, 
he would have lost their support. In either event he was 
in great danger; and so he who was aspiring to succeed 
his old rival, James Shields, in the United States Senate 
was forced to avoid the issue by driving hastily in his one 
horse buggy to the court in Tazewell County. A singular 
coincidence suggests itself in the fact that, twelve years 
before, James Shields and a friend drove hastily in the 
same direction, and destined for the same point, to force 
Lincoln to take issue in another and entirely different 

By request of party friends Lincoln was induced to fol- 
low after Douglas and, at the various places where the 
latter had appointments to speak, reply to him. On the 
16th of October they met at Peoria, where Douglas en- 
joyed the advantages of an "open and close." Lincoln 
made an effective speech, which he wrote out and fur- 
nished to the Sangamon Journal for publication, and which 
can be found among his public utterances. His party 
friends in Springfield and elsewhere, who had urged him 
to push after Douglas till he cried "enough," were sur- 
prised a few days after the Peoria debate to find him at 
home, with the information that by an agreement with 
the latter they were both to return home and speak no 
more during the campaign. Judge of his astonishment a 
few days later to find that his rival, instead of going direct 
to his home in Chicago, had stopped at Princeton and 
violated his express agreement by making a speech there ! 
Lincoln was much displeased at this action of Douglas, 
which tended to convince him that the latter was really a 
man devoid of fixed political morals. I remember his 
explanation in our office made to me, William Butler, Wil- 
liam Jayne, Ben F. Irwin, and other friends, to account 
for his early withdrawal from the stump. After the 
Peoria debate Douglas approached him and flattered him 
by saying that he was giving him more trouble on the terri- 


torial and slavery questions than all the United States Sen- 
ate, and he therefore proposed to him that both should 
abandon the field and return to their homes. Now Lincoln 
could never refuse a polite request — one in which no prin- 
ciple was involved. I have heard him say, "It's a for- 
tunate thing I wasn't born a woman, for I cannot refuse 
anything, it seems." He therefore consented to the cessa- 
tion of debate proposed by Douglas, and the next day 
both went to the town of Lacon, where they had been 
billed for speeches. Their agreement was kept from their 
friends, and both declined to speak — Douglas, on the 
ground of hoarseness, and Lincoln gallantly refusing to 
take advantage of "Judge Douglas's indisposition." Here 
they separated, Lincoln going directly home, and Douglas, 
as before related, stopping at Princeton and colliding in 
debate with Owen Lovejoy. Upon being charged after- 
wards with his breech of agreement Douglas responded 
that Lovejoy "bantered and badgered" him so persistently 
he could not gracefully resist the encounter. The whole 
thing thoroughly displeased Lincoln. 3 

During this campaign Lincoln was nominated and elected 
to the Legislature. This was done in the face of his 
unwillingness and over his protest. On the ticket with 
him was Judge Logan. Both were elected by a majority 
of about 600 votes. Lincoln, being ambitious to reach 
the United States Senate, and warmly encouraged in his 
aspirations by his wife, resigned his seat in the Legislature 
in order that he might the more easily be elected to succeed 

3 On March 15, 1866, John H. Bryant of Princeton, Illinois, 
wrote Herndon the following letter : "I have succeeded in finding 
an old file of our Princeton papers, from which I learn that 
Mr. Douglas spoke here on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 1854. This 
fixes the date. I recollect that he staid at Tiskilwa, six miles 
south of this, the night before, and a number of our Democrats 
went down the next morning and escorted him to this place. 
Douglas spoke first one half -hour and was answered by Lovejoy 
one half-hour, when Douglas talked till dark, giving no oppor- 
tunity for reply." 

For a skeptical view of this episode as here related see Angle, 
"The Peoria Truce," in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical 
Society, January, 1929. 


his old rival James Shields, who was then one of the 
senators from Illinois. His canvass for that exalted office 
was marked by his characteristic activity and vigilance. 
During the anxious moments that intervened between the 
general election and the assembling of the Legislature he 
slept, like Napoleon, with one eye open. While attending 
court at Clinton on the 11th of November, a few days 
after the election, he wrote to a party friend in the town 
of Paris : "I have a suspicion that a Whig has been elected 
to the Legislature from Edgar. If this is not so, why 
then, 'nix cum arousf but if it is so, then could you not 
make a mark with him for me for U. S. Senator? I really 
have some chance. Please write me at Springfield giving 
me the names, post-offices, and political positions of your 
Representative and Senator, whoever they may be. Let 
this be confidential." 

[Letters which have come to light since Herndon wrote 
reveal the intensity of Lincoln's campaign for the senator- 
ship, as well as his political methods. The day before the 
foregoing letter was written he had informed an old 
supporter that "some friends here are really for me, for 
the U. S. Senate, and I should be very grateful if you 
could make a mark for me among your members. Please 
write me at all events giving me the names, post-offices, 
and 'political position of members round about you." 
Two weeks later he was asking a member of the Legislature 
to "think it over, and see whether you can do better than 
go for me." A few days later a careful letter went to 
Joseph Gillespie of Edwardsville. "I have really got it 
into my head to try to be United States Senator," Lin- 
coln confessed, "and, if I could have your support, my 
chances would be reasonably good. But I know, and ac- 
knowledge, that you have as just claims to the place as I 
have; and therefore I cannot ask you to yield to me, if 
you are thinking of becoming a candidate, yourself. If, 
however, you are not, then I should like to be remembered 
affectionately by you ; and also to have you make a mark 
for me with the Anti-Nebraska members, down your 
way." Lincoln added that he would like to know, if Gil- 


lespie had no objection to telling, whether Trumbull in- 
tended "to make a push." 

The progress of Lincoln's campaign is described in 
several letters to Elihu B. Washburne of Galena. "As 
to my own matter, things continue to look reasonably 
well," he wrote on December 11. After mentioning a 
committal for which Washburne was responsible he added, 
"I have not ventured to write all the members in your 
district, lest some of them should be offended by the in- 
delicacy of the thing — that is, coming from a total stranger. 
Could you not drop some of them a line?'j^ 

Three days later appearances were less encouraging. 
Something must be wrong in Chicago, Lincoln told Wash- 
burne, for he could not get a word from his best friends 
there in reply to his letters. "Wentworth has a knack of 
knowing things better than most men. I wish you would 
pump him, and write me what you get from him. Please 
do this as soon as you can, as the time is growing short." 

Soon after the legislature organized Lincoln informed 
Washburne of the political situation. "Besides the ten 
or a dozen on our side who are willing to be known as 
candidates, I think there are fifty secretly watching for 
a chance. I do not know that it is much advantage to 
have the largest number of votes at the start. If I did 
know this to be an advantage, I should feel better, for I 
cannot doubt that I have more committals than any other 
man. Your district comes up tolerably well for me, but 
not unanimously by any means. George Gage is for me, 
as you know. J. H. Adams is not committed to me, but 
I think will be for me. Mr. Talcott will not be for me 
as a first choice. Dr. Little and Mr. Sargent are openly 
for me. Professor Pinckney is for me, but wishes to be 
quiet. Dr. Whitney writes me that Rev. Mr. Lawrence 
will be for me, and his manner to me so indicates, but he 
has not spoken it out. Mr. Swan I have some slight hopes 
of. Turner says he is not committed, and I shall get him 
whenever I can make it appear to be his interest to go for 
me. Dr. Lyman and old Mr. Diggins will never go for 
me as first choice. M. P. Sweet is here as a candidate, and 


I understand he claims he has twenty-two members com- 
mitted to him. I think some part of his estimate must 
be based on insufficient evidence, as I cannot well see 
where they are to be found, and as I can learn the name 
of one only — Day of La Salle. Still it may be so. There 
are more than twenty-two Anti-Nebraska members who 
are not committed to me. Tell Norton that Mr. Strunk 
and Mr. Wheeler come out plump for me, and for which 
I thank him. Judge Parks I have decided hopes of, but 
he says he is not committed. I understand myself as 
having twenty-six committals, and I do not think any other 
one man has ten."] 

That man who thinks Lincoln calmly sat down and 
gathered his robes about him, waiting for the people to 
call him, has a very erroneous knowledge of Lincoln. He 
was always calculating, and always planning ahead. His 
ambition was a little engine that knew no rest. The vicis- 
situdes of a political campaign brought into play all his 
tact and management and developed to its fullest extent 
his latent industry. In common with other politicians he 
never overlooked a newspaper man who had it in his 
power to say a good or bad thing of him. The press of 
that day was not so powerful an institution as now, but 
ambitious politicians courted the favor of a newspaper 
man with as much zeal as the same class of men have done 
in later days. I remember a letter Lincoln once wrote to 
the editor of an obscure little country newspaper in 
southern Illinois in which he warms up to him in the fol- 
lowing style. "Friend Harding: I have been reading 
your paper for three or four years and have paid you 
nothing for it." He then encloses ten dollars and ad- 
monishes the editor with innocent complacency: "Put it 
into your pocket, saying nothing further about it." Very 
soon thereafter, he prepared an article on political matters 
and sent it to the rural journalist, requesting its publica- 
tion in the editorial columns of his "valued paper," but 
the latter having followed Lincoln's directions and stowed 
the ten dollars away in his pocket, and alive to the im- 
portance of his journal's influence, declined, "because," 


he said, "I long ago made it a rule to publish nothing as 
editorial matter not written by myself." Lincoln read 
the editor's answer to me. Although the laugh was on 
Lincoln he enjoyed the joke heartily. "That editor," he 
said, "has a rather lofty but proper conception of true 

Meanwhile the Legislature had convened and the Sena- 
torial question came on for solution. The history of this 
contest is generally understood, and the world has repeat- 
edly been told how Lincoln was led to expect the place and 
would have won but for the apostasy of the five Anti- 
Nebraska men of Democratic antecedents who clung to 
and finally forced the election of Lyman Trumbull. The 
student of history in after years will be taught to revere 
the name of Lincoln for his exceeding magnanimity in in- 
ducing his friends to abandon him at the critical period 
and save Trumbull, while he himself disappeared beneath 
the waves of defeat. 

[In the following letter to Washburne Lincoln gives a / 
detailed account of his defeat: / 

"Springfield, February 9, 1855. 
"My Dear Sir: — The agony is over at last, and the result 
you doubtless know. I write this only to give you some par- 
ticulars to explain what might appear difficult of understand- 
ing. I began with 44 votes, Shields 41, and Trumbull 5, — yet 
Trumbull was elected. In fact, 47 different members voted 
for me, — getting three new ones on the second ballot, and 
losing four old ones. How came my 47 to yield to Trumbull's 
5 ? It was Governor Matteson's work. He has been secretly 
a candidate ever since (before, even) the fall election. All 
the members round about the canal were Anti-Nebraska but 
were nevertheless nearly all Democrats and old personal friends 
of his. His plan was to privately impress them with the be- 
lief that he was as good Anti-Nebraska as any one else, — at 
least could be secured to be so by instructions, which could be 
easily passed. In this way he got from four to six of that sort 
of men to really prefer his election to that of any other man — 
all sub rosa, of course. One notable instance of this sort was 
with Mr. Strunk of Kankakee. At the beginning of the 
session he came a volunteer to tell me he was for me and 


would walk a hundred miles to elect me; but lo ! it was not 
long before he leaked it out that he was going for me the 
first few ballots and then was for Governor Matteson. 

"The Nebraska men, of course, were not for Matteson; but 
when they found they could elect no avowed Nebraska man, 
they tardily determined to let him get whomever of our men 
he could, by whatever means he could, and ask him no 
questions. In the mean time Osgood, Don. Morrison, and 
Trapp of St. Clair had openly gone over from us. With the 
united Nebraska force and their recruits, open and covert, it 
gave Matteson more than enough to elect him. We saw it 
plainly ten days ago, but with every possible effort could not 
head it off. All that remained of the Anti-Nebraska force, 
excepting Judd, Cook, Palmer, Baker and Allen of Madison, 
and two or three of the secret Matteson men, would go into 
caucus, and I could get the nomination of that caucus. But 
the three senators and one of the two representatives above 
named 'could never vote for a Whig/ and this incensed some 
twenty Whigs to 'think' they would never vote for the man 
of the five. So we stood, and so we went into the fight yes- 
terday, — the Nebraska men very confident of the election of 
Matteson, though denying that he was a candidate, and we 
very much believing also that they would elect him. But they 
wanted first to make a show of good faith to Shields by voting 
for him a few times, and our secret Matteson men also wanted 
to make a show of good faith by voting with us a few times. 
So we led off. On the seventh ballot, I think, the signal was 
given to the Nebraska men to turn to Matteson, which they 
acted on to a man, with one exception, my old friend Strunk 
going with them, giving him 44 votes. 

''Next ballot the remaining Nebraska man and one pre- 
tended Anti went over to him, giving him 46. The next still 
another, giving him 47, wanting only three of an election. 
In the mean time our friends, with a view of detaining our 
expected bolters, had been turning from me to Trumbull till 
he had risen to 35 and I had been reduced to 15. These would 
never desert me except by my direction; but I became satis- 
fied that if we could prevent Matteson's election one or two 
ballots more, we could not possibly do so a single ballot after 
my friends should begin to return to me from Trumbull. So 
I determined to strike at once, and accordingly advised my 
remaining friends to go for him, which they did and elected 
him on the tenth ballot. 


"Such is the way the thing was done. I think you would 
have done the same under the circumstances ; though Judge 
Davis, who came down this morning, declares he never would 
have consented to the forty-seven men being controlled by the 
five. I regret my defeat moderately, but I am not nervous 
about it. I could have headed off every combination and 
been elected, had it not been for Matteson's double game — 
and his defeat now gives me more pleasure than my own gives 
me pain. On the whole, it is perhaps as well for our general 
cause that Trumbull is elected. The Nebraska men confess 
that they hate it worse than anything that could have hap- 
pened. It is a great consolation to see them worse whipped 
than I am. I tell them it is their own fault — that they had 
abundant opportunity to choose between him and me, which 
they declined, and instead forced it on me to decide between 
him and Matteson. 4 

"With my grateful acknowledgments for the kind, active, 
and continued interest you have taken for me in this matter, 
allow me to subscribe myself. 

"Yours forever, 

"A. Lincoln." 

The spirit in which Lincoln accepted defeat is shown 
by a small item in the Illinois Journal a week after the 
election. "A large number of anti-Nebraska members of 
the Legislature met on yesterday," the paragraph reads, 
"and partook of a dinner provided by the liberality of Mr. 
Lincoln, at which there was besides good eating, good 
speeches made, and excellent sentiments offered. The 
affair passed off very pleasantly."] 

This frustration of Lincoln's ambition had a marked ef- 
fect on his political views. It was plain to him now that the 
"irrepressible conflict" was not far ahead. With the 

4 In a footnote in the original edition Herndon printed a letter 
from Joseph Gillespie dated September 19, 1866, describing this 
election. Gillespie's account coincides with Lincoln's, but he 
adds that "S. T. Logan gave up Lincoln with great reluctance. 
He begged hard to try him on one or two ballots more, but Mr. 
Lincoln urged us not to risk it longer. I never saw the latter 
more earnest and decided. He congratulated Trumbull warmly, 
although of course greatly disappointed and mortified at his 
own want of success." 


strengthening of his faith in a just cause so long held in 
abeyance he became more defiant each day. But in the 
very nature of things he dared not be as bold and out- 
spoken as I. With him every word and sentence had to 
be weighed and its effects calculated, before being uttered ; 
but with me that operation had to be reversed if done 
at all. An incident that occurred about this time will show 
how his views were broadening. Some time after the 
election of Trumbull a young negro, the son of a colored 
woman in Springfield known as Polly, went from his home 
to St. Louis and there hired as a hand on a lower Missis- 
sippi boat, — for what special service, I do not recollect, — 
arriving in New Orleans without what were known as 
free papers. Though born free he was subjected to the 
tyranny of the "black code," all the more stringent because 
of the recent utterances of the Abolitionists in the North, 
and was kept in prison until his boat had left. Then, as 
no one was especially interested in him, he was forgotten. 
After a certain length of time established by law, he would 
inevitably have been sold in slavery to defray prison ex- 
penses had not Lincoln and I interposed our aid. The 
mother came to us with the story of the wrong done her 
son and induced us to interfere in her behalf. We went 
first to see the Governor of Illinois, who, after patient 
and thorough examination of the law, responded that he 
had no right or power to interfere. Recourse was then 
had to the Governor of Louisiana, who responded in like 
manner. We were sorely perplexed. A second interview 
with the Governor of Illinois resulting in nothing favorable 
Lincoln rose from his chair, hat in hand, and exclaimed 
with some emphasis: "By God, Governor, I'll make the 
ground in this country too hot for the foot of a slave, 
whether you have the legal power to secure the release of 
this boy or not." Having exhausted all legal means to 
recover the negro we dropped our relation as lawyers to 
the case. Lincoln drew up a subscription-list, which I 
circulated, collecting funds enough to purchase the young 
man's liberty. The money we sent to Col. A. P. Field, a 


friend of ours in New Orleans, who applied it as directed, 
and it restored the prisoner to his overjoyed mother. 

The political history of the country, commencing in 
1854 and continuing until the outbreak of the Rebellion, 
furnishes the student a constant succession of stirring 
and sometimes bloody scenes. No sooner had Lincoln 
emerged from the senatorial contest in February, 1855, 
and absorbed himself in the law, than the outrages on the 
borders of Missouri and Kansas began to arrest public 
attention. The stories of raids, election frauds, murders, 
and other crimes were moving eastward with marked 
rapidity. These outbursts of frontier lawlessness, led and 
sanctioned by the avowed pro-slavery element, were not 
only stirring up the Abolitionists to fever heat, but touch- 
ing the hearts of humanity in general. In Illinois an asso- 
ciation was formed to aid the cause of "Free-Soil" men in 
Kansas. In the meetings of these bands the Abolitionists 
of course took the most prominent part. At Springfield 
we were energetic, vigilant, almost revolutionary. We 
recommended the employment • of any means, however 
desperate, to promote and defend the cause of freedom. 
At one of these meetings Lincoln was called on for a 
speech. He responded to the request, counselling modera- 
tion and less bitterness in dealing with the situation before 
us. We were belligerent in tone, and clearly out of pa- 
tience with the Government. Lincoln opposed the notion 
of coercive measures with the possibility of resulting 
bloodshed, advising us to eschew resort to the bullet. 
"You can better succeed," he .declared, "with the ballot. 
You can peaceably then redeem the Government and pre- 
serve the liberties of mankind through your votes and 
voice and moral influence. . . . Let there be peace. Revo- 
lutionize through the ballot box, and restore the Govern- 
ment once more to the affections and hearts of men by 
making it express, as it was intended to do, the highest 
spirit of justice and liberty. Your attempt, if there be 
such, to resist the laws of Kansas by force is criminal and 
wicked; and all your feeble attempts will be follies and 


end in bringing sorrow on your heads and ruin the cause 
you would freely die to preserve !" These judicious words 
of counsel, while they reduced somewhat our ardor and 
our desperation, only placed before us in their real colors 
the grave features of the situation. We raised a neat sum 
of money, Lincoln showing his sincerity by joining in 
the subscription, and forwarded it to our friends in 
[ Kansas. 6 

The Whig party, having accomplished its mission in the 
political world, was now on the eve of a great break-up. 
Lincoln realized this and, though proverbially slow in his 
movements, prepared to find a firm footing when the great 
rush of waters should come and the maddening freshet 
sweep former landmarks out of sight. Of the strongest 
significance in this connection is a letter written by him at 
this juncture to an old friend in Kentucky (Joshua F. 
Speed), who called to his attention their differences of 
views on the wrong of slavery. Speaking of his observa- 
tion of the treatment of the slaves, he says : "I confess I 
hate to see the poor creatures hunted down and caught 
and carried back to their unrequited toils ; but I bite my 
lips and keep quiet. In 1841 you and I had rather a tedious 
low-water trip on a steamboat from Louisville to St. Louis. 
You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to 
the mouth of the Ohio, there were on board ten or a dozen 
slaves shackled together with irons. That sight was a con- 
tinued torment to me; and I see something like it every 
time I touch the Ohio or any slave borderyTt is not fair 
for you to assume that I have no interestMn a thing which 
has, and continually exercises, the power of making me 
miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the 

5 On October 24, 1860, Lincoln wrote his own account of this 
episode to J. C. Lee: "... I never gave fifty dollars, nor one 
dollar, nor one cent, for the object you mention, or any such 
object. I once subscribed twenty-five dollars, to be paid whenever 
Judge Logan would decide it was necessary to enable the people 
of Kansas to defend themselves against any force coming against 
them from without the Territory, and not by authority of the 
United States. Logan never made the decision, and I never paid 
a dollar on the subscription." 


great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings 
in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and 
the Union. I do oppose the extension of slavery because 
my judgment and feeling so prompt me ; and I am under no 
obligation to the contrary. If for this you and I must 
differ, differ we must." 

Finding himself drifting about with the disorganized 
elements that floated together after the angry political 
waters had subsided, it became apparent to Lincoln that 
if he expected to figure as a leader he must take a stand 
himself. Mere hatred of slavery and opposition to the 
injustice of the Kansas-Nebraska legislation were not all 
that were required of him. He must be a Democrat, 
Know-Nothing, Abolitionist, or Republican, or forever 
float about in the great political sea without compass, rud- 
der, or sail. At length he declared himself. Believing the 
times were ripe for more advanced movements, in the 
spring of 1856 I drew up a paper for the friends of free- 
dom to sign, calling a county convention in Springfield to 
select delegates for the forthcoming Republican State 
convention in Bloomington. The paper was freely circu- 
lated and generously signed. Lincoln was absent at the 
time and, believing I knew what his "feeling and judg- 
ment" on the vital questions of the hour were, I took the 
liberty to sign his name to the call. The whole was then 
published in the Springfield Journal. No sooner had it 
appeared than John T. Stuart, who, with others, was en- 
deavoring to retard Lincoln in his advanced movements, 
rushed into the office and excitedly asked if "Lincoln had 
signed the Abolition call in the Journal?" I answered in 
the negative, adding that I had signed his name myself. 
To the question, "Did Lincoln authorize you to sign it?" 
I returned an emphatic "No." "Then," exclaimed the 
startled and indignant Stuart, "you have ruined him." But 
I was by no means alarmed at what others deemed in- 
considerate and hasty action. I thought I understood 
Lincoln thoroughly, but in order to vindicate myself if 
assailed I immediately sat down, after Stuart had rushed 
out of the office, and wrote Lincoln, who was then in 


Tazewell County attending court, a brief account of what 
I had done and how much stir it was creating in the ranks 
of his conservative friends. If he approved or disapproved 
my course I asked him to write or telegraph me at once. 
In a brief time came his answer : "All right ; go ahead. 
Will meet you — radicals and all." Stuart subsided, and 
the conservative spirits who hovered around Springfield 
no longer held control of the political fortunes of Abra- 
ham Lincoln. 

The Republican party came into existence in Illinois as 
a party at Bloomington, May 29, 1856. The State con- 
vention of all opponents of Anti-Nebraska legislation, re- 
ferred to in a foregoing paragraph, had been set for that 
day. Judd, Yates, Trumbull, Swett, and Davis were 
there; so also was Lovejoy, who, like Otis of colonial 
fame, was a flame of fire. The firm of Lincoln and 
Herndon was represented by both members in person. 
The gallant William H. Bissell, who had ridden at the 
head of the Second Illinois Regiment at the battle of 
Buena Vista in the Mexican war, was nominated as gov- 
ernor. The convention adopted a platform ringing with 
strong Anti-Nebraska sentiments, and then and there gave 
the Republican party its official christening. The business 
of the convention being over, Mr. Lincoln, in response to 
repeated calls, came forward and delivered a speech of 
such earnestness and power that no one who heard it will 
ever forget the effect it produced. In referring to this 
speech some years ago I used the fellowing rather graphic 
language : "I have heard or read all of Mr. Lincoln's great 
speeches, and I give it as my opinion that the Blooming- 
ton speech was the grand effort of this life. Heretofore he 
had simply argued the slavery question on grounds of 
policy, — the statesman's grounds, — never reaching the 
question of the radical and the eternal right. Now he 
was newly baptized and freshly born; he had the fer- 
vor of a new convert; the smothered flame broke out; 
enthusiasm unusual to him blazed up ; his eyes were aglow 
with an inspiration ; he felt justice ; his heart was alive to 
the right ; his sympathies, remarkably deep for him, burst 


forth, and he stood before the throne of the eternal 
Right. His speech was full of fire and energy and force ; 
it was logic; it was pathos; it was enthusiasm; it was 
justice, equity, truth, and right set ablaze by the divine 
fires of a soul maddened by the wrong ; it was hard, heavy, 
knotty, gnarly, backed with wratl^I attempted for about 
fifteen minutes as was usual with me then to take notes, 
but at the end of that time I threw pen and paper away 
and lived only in the inspiration of the hour. If Mr. 
Lincoln was six feet, four inches high usually, at Bloom- 
ington that day he was seven feet, and inspired at that. 
From that day to the day of his death he stood firm in the 
right. He felt his great cross, had his great idea, nursed 
it, kept it, taught it to others, in his fidelity bore witness 
of it to his death, and finally sealed it with his precious 
blood." The foregoing paragraph, used by me in a lecture 
in 1866, may to the average reader seem somewhat vivid 
in description, besides inclining to extravagance in im- 
agery, yet although more than twenty years have passed 
since it was written I have never seen the need of altering 
a single sentence. I still adhere to the substantial truth- 
fulness of the scene as described. Unfortunately Lincoln's 
speech was never written out nor printed, and we are 
obliged to depend for its reproduction upon personal 

[Only one contemporary report of Lincoln's address is 
known to exist, and that was published in the Alton 
Courier for June 5, 1856. "Abraham Lincoln of Sanga- 
mon came upon the platform amid deafening applause," 
the editor wrote. "He enumerated the pressing reasons 
of the present movement. He was here ready to fuse with 
anyone who would unite with him to oppose slave power ; 
spoke of the bugbear of disunion which was so vaguely 
threatened. It was to be remembered that the Union 
must be preserved in the purity of its principles as well 
as the integrity of territorial parts. It must be 'Liberty 
and Union now and forever, one and inseparable.' The 
sentiment in favor of white slavery now prevailed in all 


the slave state papers, except those of Kentucky, Tennes- 
see, and Missouri and Maryland. Such was the progress 
of National Democracy. Douglas once claimed against 
him that Democracy favored more than his principles, the 
individual rights of man. Was it not strange that he must 
stand there now to defend those rights against their for- 
mer eulogist? The Black Democracy were endeavoring 
to cite Henry Clay to reconcile old Whigs to their doctrine 
and repaid them with the very cheap compliment of Na- 
tional Whigs." 

That Herndon's editorial eulogy of Lincoln's speech 
had a real basis in fact is indicated by the comment of the 
Chicago Democratic Press. "For an hour and a half," 
the reporter wrote, "he held the assemblage spell-bound 
by the power of his argument, the intense irony of his 
invective, and the deep earnestness and fervid brilliancy 
of his eloquence. When he concluded, the audience 
sprang to their feet, and cheer after cheer told how deeply 
their hearts had been touched, and their souls warmed up 
to a generous enthusiasm."] 

The Bloomington convention and the part Lincoln took 
in it met no such hearty response in Springfield as we 
hoped would follow. It fell flat, and in Lincoln's case 
drove from him many persons who had heretofore been 
his warm political friends. A few days after our return we 
announced a meeting at the courthouse to ratify the ac- 
tion of the Bloomington convention. After the usual ef- 
forts to draw a crowd, however, only three persons had 
temerity enough to attend. They were Lincoln, the writer, 
and a courageous man named John Pain. Lincoln, in 
answer to the "deafening calls" for a speech, responded 
that the meeting was larger than he knew it would be, and 
that while he knew that he himself and his partner would 
attend he was not sure anyone else would, and yet another 
man had been found brave enough to come out. "While 
all seems dead," he exhorted, "the age itself is not. It 
liveth as sure as our Maker liveth. Under all this seeming 
want of life and motion, the world does move neverthe- 


less. Be hopeful, and now let us adjourn and appeal to 
1 the people." 6 

Not only in Springfield but everywhere else the found- 
ers of the Republican party — the apostles of freedoms- 
went out to battle for the righteousness of their cause. 
Lincoln, having as usual been named as one of the Presi- 
dential electors, canvassed the State, making in all about 
fifty speeches. He was in demand everywhere. I have 

6 This paragraph constitutes the one exception to my statement 
(see Editor's Preface, p. xxxviii) that when Herndon states a fact 
as of his own knowledge, it may be relied upon as true. The 
Illinois State Journal, in its issue of June 11, 1856, contains the 
following paragraph : "The Court House was filled to overflowing 
with a very intelligent audience, last evening, assembled for the 
purpose of ratifying the nominations of the People's Anti-Ne- 
braska Convention. Many were obliged to leave because they 
could not obtain seats, while a large number stood in the aisles 
for hours. It having been announced that several gentlemen 
would address the meeting, Hon. A. Lincoln took the stand and 
pronounced the most logical and finished argument against the 
evils to be apprehended from the continued aggressions of the 
slave power, that it has ever been our good fortune to listen to. 
We shall not mar its beauty by an attempt to give a synopsis 
of it. The speaker's manner was calm and unimpassioned, he 
preferring rather to appeal to the reason than to excite the feel- 
ings of his hearers. He brought his remarks to a close at about 
ten o'clock, and introduced Hon. John M. Palmer of Macoupin, 
who successfully exposed the tortuous course that Messrs. Doug- 
las, Richardson and Harris have pursued on the question of 
the Missouri Compromise, and which has resulted in the dis- 
ruption of the once powerful and patriotic Democratic party — a 
fragment now proclaiming that slavery has become national and 
freedom sectional, and the original element, to which he still 
claims affinity, resisting this infamous doctrine now as hereto- 
fore. Mr. Palmer made many friends last night.'' Even the 
Illinois State Register, whose business it was, as a Democratic 
paper, to belittle everything Republican, admitted in its issue 
for June 12 that two hundred had attended the meeting. 

It is possible, of course, that Herndon's story refers to an 
earlier meeting which had been planned and which failed, but 
this seems very unlikely. The contradiction seems inexplicable. 
However, on the strength of this one exception, clear-cut though 
it is, I have not seen fit to modify an hypothesis the soundness 
of which is indicated by all other tests. 


before me a package of letters addressed to him, inviting 
him to speak at almost every county seat in the State. 
Yates wanted him to go to one section of the State, Wash- 
burne to another, and Trumbull still another ; while every 
cross-roads politician and legislative aspirant wanted him 
"down in our country, where we need your help." Joshua 
R. Giddings wrote him words of encouragement. "You 
may start," said the valiant old Abolitionist in a letter from 
Peoria, "on the one great issue of restoring Kansas and 
Nebraska to freedom, or rather of restoring the Missouri 
Compromise, and in this State no power on earth can 
withstand you on that issue." The demand for Lincoln 
was not confined to his own State. Indiana sent for him, 
Wisconsin also, while Norman B. Judd and Ebenezer 
Peck, who were stumping Iowa, sent for him to come 
there. A town committee invited him to come during 
"our Equestrian Fair on the 9th, 10th, and 11th," evi- 
dently anticipating a three days' siege. An enthusiastic 
officer in a neighboring town urges him: "Come to our 
place, because in you do our people place more confidence 
than in any other man. Men who do not read want the 
story told as you only can tell it. Others may make fine 
speeches, but it would not be 'Lincoln said so in his 
speech'." A jubilant friend in Chicago writes : "Push 
on the column of freedom. Give the Buck Africans plenty 
to do in Egypt. The hour of our redemption draweth 
nigh. We are coming to Springfield with 20,000 ma- 
jority!" A postmaster, acting under the courage of his 
convictions, implores him to visit his neighborhood. "The 
Democrats here," he insists, "are dyed in the wool. 
Thunder and lightning would not change their political 
complexion. I am postmaster here," he adds, confiden- 
tially, "for which reason I must ask you to keep this pri- 
vate, for if old Frank (President Pierce) were to hear of 
my support of Fremont I would get my walking papers 
sure enough." A settlement of Germans in southern In- 
diana asked to hear him; and the president of a college, 
in an invitation to address the students under his charge, 
characterizes him as "one providentially raised up for a 


time like this, and even should defeat come in the contest, 
it would be some consolation to remember we had Hector 
for a leader." 

And thus it was everywhere. Lincoln's importance in the 
conduct of the campaign was apparent to all, and his can- 
vass was characterized by his usual vigor and effectiveness. 
He was especially noted for his attempt to break down the 
strength of Fillmore, who was nominated as a third party 
candidate and was expected to divide the Republican vote. 
He tried to wean away Fillmore's adherents by an adroit 
and ingenious letter sent to those suspected of the latter 's 
support, and marked confidential, in which he strove to 
show that in clinging to their candidate they were really 
aiding the election of Buchanan. 

One of these letters which Lincoln wrote to counteract 
the Fillmore movement is still in my possession. As it 
is more or less characteristic I copy it entire: 

"Springfield, September 8, 1856. 
"Harrison Maltby, Esq. 

"Dear Sir: 

"I understand you are a Fillmore man. Let me prove to 
you that every vote withheld from Fremont and given to Fill- 
more in this State actually lessens Fillmore's chance of being 

"Suppose Buchanan gets all the slave States and Pennsyl- 
vania and any other one State besides; then he is elected, no 
matter who gets all the rest. But suppose Fillmore gets the 
two slave States of Maryland and Kentucky, then Buchanan 
is not elected ; Fillmore goes into the House of Representatives 
and may be made President by a compromise. But suppose 
again Fillmore's friend throw away a few thousand votes on 
him in Indiana and Illinois ; it will inevitably give these States 
to Buchanan, which will more than compeiisate him for the 
loss of Maryland and Kentucky; it will elect him, and leave 
Fillmore no chance in the House of Representatives or out 
of it. 

"This is as plain as adding up the weight of three small 
hogs. As Mr. Fillmore has no possible chance to carry 
Illinois for himself it is plainly to his interest to let Fremont 
take it and thus keep it out of the hands of Buchanan. Be 


not deceived. Buchanan is the hard horse to beat in this race. 
Let him have Illinois, and nothing can beat him; and he will 
get Illinois if men persist in throwing away votes upon Mr. 
Fillmore. Does some one persuade you that Mr. Fillmore 
can carry Illinois ? Nonsense ! There are over seventy news- 
papers in Illinois opposing Buchanan, only three or four of 
which support Mr. Fillmore, all the rest going for Fremont. 
Are not these newspapers a fair index of the proportion of 
the votes ? If not, tell me why. 

"Again, of these three or four Fillmore newspapers, two at 
least are supported in part by the Buchanan men, as I under- 
stand. Do not they know where the shoe pinches? They 
know the Fillmore movement helps them, and therefore they 
help it. 

"Do think these things over and then act according to your 

"Yours very truly, 

"A. Lincoln." 7 


But the effort proved unavailing, for in spite of all his 
arguments and appeals a large number of the Fillmore men 
clung tenaciously to their leader, resulting in Buchanan's 
election. The vote in Illinois stood, Buchanan 105,344, 
Fremont 96,180, and Fillmore 37,451. At the same time 
Bissell was elected governor by a majority of 4,729 over 
W. A. Richardson, Democrat. After the heat and burden 
of the day Lincoln returned home, bearing with him more 
and greater laurels than ever. The signs of the times 
indicated, and the result of the canvass demonstrated, that 
he and he alone was powerful enough to meet the re- 
doubtable Little Giant in a greater conflict yet to follow. 

7 Lincoln had this letter lithographed and sent it broadcast 
over the state, filling in the name of the addressee and signing it 
in his own hand. So cleverly was it done that even today, after 
his own handwriting has faded from black to brown, it will 
pass for an autograph letter under any but the most critical 
inspection. In the original edition Herndon used the letter as a 



ing the interval between the election of Buchanan and the 
campaign of 1858, for the reason that it would not only 
swell this work to undue proportions, but be a mere repe- 
tition of what has been better told by other writers. It 
is proper to note in passing, however, that Mr. Lincoln's 
reputation as a political speaker was no longer bounded by 
the border lines of Illinois. It had passed beyond the 
Wabash, the Ohio, and the Mississippi rivers, and while 
his pronounced stand on the slavery question had in- 
creased the circle of his admirers in the North it provoked a 
proportionate amount of execration in the South. He could 
not help the feeling that he was now the leading Republican 
in his State, and he was therefore more or less jealous of 
his prerogative. Formidable in debate, plain in speech, 
without pretence of literary acquirements, he was none the 
less self-reliant. He already envied the ascendency and 
domination Douglas exercised over his followers, and felt 
keenly the slight given him by others of his own faith 
whom he conceived were disposed to prevent his attaining 
the leadership of his party ,j I remember early in 1858 
of his coming into the office one morning and speaking 
in very dejected terms of the treatment he was receiving 
at the hands of Horace Greeley. "I think Greeley," he 
complained, "is not doing me right. His conduct, I be- 
lieve, savors a little of injustice. I am a true Republican 
and have been tried already in the hottest part of the anti- 
slavery fight, and yet I find him taking up Douglas, a 
veritable dodger, — once a tool of the South, now its enemy, 
— and pushing him to the front. He forgets that when 


he does that he pulls me down at the same time. I fear 
Greeley's attitude will damage me with Sumner, Seward, 
Wilson, Phillips, and other friends in the East." This was 
said with so much of mingled sadness and earnestness that 
I was deeply impressed. Lincoln was gloomy and restless 
the entire day. Greeley's letters were driving the en- 
thusiasm out of him. 1 He seemed unwilling to attend to 
any business, and finally, just before noon, left the office, 
going over to the United States Court room to play a 
game of chess with Judge Treat, and did not return again 
that day. I pondered a good deal over Lincoln's dejection, 
and that night, after weighing the matter well in mind, re- 
solved to go to the eastern States myself and endeavor to 
sound some of the great men there. The next day, on 
apprising Lincoln of my determination, he questioned its 
propriety. Our relations, he insisted, were so intimate 
that a wrong construction might be put upon the move- 
ment. I listened carefully to him, but as I had never been 
beyond the Alleghanies I packed my valise and went, not- 
withstanding his objections. I had been in correspondence 
on my own account with Greeley, Seward, Sumner, Phil- 
lips, and others for several years, had kept them informed 
of the feelings of our people and the political campaigns 
in their various stages, but had never met any of them 

1 Herndon printed the following example in the original edition 
as a footnote: 

"I have not proposed to instruct the Republicans of Illinois in 
their political duties, and I doubt very much that even so much 
as is implied in your letter can be fairly deduced from anything 
I have written. Now let me make one prediction. If you run a 
candidate [for Congress] against Harris and he is able to can- 
vass he will beat you badly. He is more of a man at heart and 
morally than Douglas, and has gone into this fight with more 
earnestness and less calculation. Of the whole Douglas party 
he is the truest and best. I never spoke a dozen words with 
him in my life, having met him but once, but if I lived in his 
district I should vote for him. As I have never spoken of him 
in my paper, and suppose I never shall, I take the liberty to 
say this much to you. Now paddle your own dug-out! 

"Horace Greeley." 


save Greeley. I enjoyed heartily the journey and the 
varied sights and scenes that attended it. Aside from my 
mission, the trip was a great success. The magnificent 
buildings, the display of wealth in the large cities and 
prosperous manufacturing towns, broadened the views of 
one whose vision had never extended beyond the limits 
of the Illinois prairies. In Washington I saw and dined 
with Trumbull, who went over the situation with me. 
Trumbull had written to Lincoln shortly before that he 
thought it "useless to speculate upon the further course of 
Douglas or the effect it is to have in Illinois or other 
States. He himself does not know where he is going or 
where he will come out." At my interview with Trum- 
bull, however, he directed me to assure Mr. Lincoln that 
Douglas did not mean to join the Republican party, how- 
ever great the breach between himself and the administra- 
tion might be/' "We Republicans here," he said exultingly 
in another letter to Lincoln, "are in good spirits, and are 
standing back to let the fight go on between Douglas and 
his former associates. Lincoln will lose nothing by this 
if he can keep the attention of our Illinois people from be- 
ing diverted from the great and vital question of the day 
to the minor and temporary issues which are now being 
discussed." In Washington I saw also Seward, Wilson, 
and others of equal prominence. Douglas was confined to 
his house by illness, but on receiving my card he directed 
me to be shown up to his room. We had a pleasant and 
interesting interview. Of course the conversation soon 
turned on Lincoln. In answer to an inquiry regarding the 
latter I remarked that Lincoln was pursuing the even tenor 
of his way. "He is not in anybody's way," I contended, 
"not even in yours, Judge Douglas." He was sitting up 
in a chair smoking a cigar. Between puffs he responded 
that neither was he in the way of Lincoln or any one else, 
and did not intend to invite conflict. He conceived that 
he had achieved what he had set out to do, and hence did 
not feel that his course need put him in opposition to Mr. 
Lincoln or his party. "Give Mr. Lincoln my regards," 
he said, rather warmly, "when you return, and tell him I 


have crossed the river and burned my boat." Leaving 
Washington, my next point was New York, where I met 
the editor of the Anti-Slavery Standard, Horace Greeley, 
Henry Ward Beecher, and others. I had a long talk with 
Greeley, whom I noticed leaned toward Douglas. I found, 
however, he was not at all hostile to Lincoln. I presented 
the latter's case in the best phase I knew how, but while I 
drew but little from him, I left feeling that he hadn't been 
entirely won over. He introduced me to Beecher, who, 
as everybody else did, inquired after Lincoln and through 
me sent him words of encouragement and praise. (Lin- 
coln's greatest fear was that Douglas might be taken up 
by the Republicans. Senator Seward, when I met him in 
Washington, assured me there was no danger of it, insist- 
ing that the Republicans nor anyone else could place any 
reliance on a man so slippery as Douglas.) 2 From New 
York I went to Boston, and from the latter place I wrote 
Lincoln a letter which happily I found not long since 
in a bundle of Lincoln's letters, and which I insert here, 
believing it affords a better reflex of the situation at the 
time than anything I might see fit to say now. Here it is : 

"Revere House, 

"Boston, Mass., March 24, 1858. 
"Friend Lincoln. 

"I am in this city of notions, and am well — very well indeed. 
I wrote you a hasty letter from Washington some days ago, 
since which time I have been in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New 
York, and now here. I saw Greeley, and so far as any of 
our conversation is interesting to you I will relate. And we 
talked, say twenty minutes. He evidently wants Douglas 
sustained and sent back to the Senate. He did not say so in 
so many words, yet his feelings are with Douglas. I know it 
from the spirit and drift of his conversation. He talked bit- 
terly — somewhat so — against the papers in Illinois, and said 
they were fools. I asked him this question, 'Greeley, do you 
want to see a third party organized, or do you want Douglas 
to ride to power through the North, which he has so much 

2 The sentences in parentheses were used as a footnote in the 
original edition. 


abused and betrayed?' and to which he replied, 'Let the 
future alone; it will all come right. Douglas is a brave man. 
Forget the past and sustain the righteous.' Good God, right- 
eous, eh ! 

"Since I have landed in Boston I have seen much that was 
entertaining and interesting. This morning I was introduced 
to Governor Banks. He and I had a conversation about Re- 
publicanism and especially about Douglas. He asked me this 
question, 'You will sustain Douglas in Illinois, wont you?' 
and to which I said 'No, never!' He affected to be much sur- 
prised, and so the matter dropped and turned on Republican- 
ism, or in general — Lincoln. Greeley's and other sheets that 
laud Douglas, Harris, et al., want them sustained, and will try 
to do it. Several persons have asked me the same question 
which Banks asked, and evidently they get their cue, ideas, or 
what not from Greeley, Seward, et al. By-the-bye, Greeley 
remarked to me this, 'The Republican standard is too high; 
we want something practical.' 

"This may not be interesting to you, but however it may 
be, it is my duty to state what is going on, so that you may 
head it off — counteract it in some way. I hope it can be done. 
The northern men are cold to me — somewhat repellent. 

"Your friend, 

"W. H. Herndon." 

On my return home I had encouraging news to relate. 
I told Lincoln of the favorable mention I had heard of 
him by Phillips, Sumner, Seward, Garrison, Beecher, and 
Greeley. I brought with me additional sermons and lec- 
tures by Theodore Parker, who was warm in his commen- 
dation of Lincoln. One of these was a lecture on "The 
Effect of Slavery on the American People," which was 
delivered in the Music Hall in Boston, and which I gave 
to Lincoln, who read and returned it. He liked especially 
the following expression, which he marked with a pencil, 
and which he in substance afterwards used in his Gettys- 
burg address : "Democracy is direct self-government, over 
all the people, for all the people, by all the people." 

Meanwhile, passing by other events which have become 
interwoven in the history of the land, we reach April, 
1858, at which time the Democratic State convention met 


and, besides nominating candidates for State offices, en- 
dorsed Mr. Douglas' services in the Senate, thereby vir- 
tually renominating him for that exalted office. In the 
very nature of things Lincoln was the man already chosen 
in the hearts of the Republicans of Illinois for the same 
office, and therefore with singular appropriateness they 
passed, with great unanimity, at their convention in Spring- 
field on the 16th of June, the characteristic resolution: 
"That Hon. Abraham Lincoln is our first and only choice 
for United States Senator to fill the vacancy about to be 
created by the expiration of Mr. Douglas' term of of- 
fice." There was of course no surprise in this for Mr. 
Lincoln. He had been all along led to expect it, and with 
that in view had been earnestly and quietly at work pre- 
paring a speech in acknowledgment of the honor about 
to be conferred on him. This speech he wrote on stray 
envelopes and scraps of paper, as ideas suggested them- 
selves, putting them into that miscellaneous and conven- 
ient receptacle, his hat. As the convention drew near he 
copied the whole on connected sheets, carefully revising 
every line and sentence, and fastened them together, for 
reference during the delivery of the speech, and for pub- 
lication. The former precaution, however, was unneces- 
sary, for he had studied and read over what he had written 
so long and carefully that he was able to deliver it without 
the least hesitation or difficulty. A few days before the 
convention, when he was at work on the speech, I re- 
member that Jesse K. Dubois, 3 who was Auditor of State, 
came into the office and, seeing Lincoln busily writing, 
inquired what he was doing or what he was writing. Lin- 
coln answered gruffly, "It's something you may see or hear 

3 In an undated manuscript Jesse K. Dubois made the following 
statement, which Herndon published as a footnote in the original 
edition : "After the convention Lincoln met me on the street 
and said, 'Dubois, I can tell you now what I was doing the other 
day when you came into my office. I was writing that speech, 
and I knew if I read the passage about the "house divided against 
itself" to you, you would ask me to change or modify it, and 
that I was determined not to do. I had willed it so, and was 
willing if necessary to perish with it.' " 

meserve no. 85. A photograph made by 
Mathew B. Brady on February 9, 1864. It ap- 
pears on the five-dollar bill. 


sometime, but I'll not let you see it now.'jj I myself knew 
what he was writing, but having asked neither my opinion 
nor that of anyone else, I did not venture to offer any sug- 
gestions. After he had finished the final draft of the speech, 
he locked the office door, drew the curtain across the glass 
panel in the door, and read it to me. At the end of each 
paragraph he would halt and wait for my comments. I 
remember what I said after hearing the first paragraph, 
wherein occurs the celebrated figure of the house divided 
against itself : "It is true, but is it wise or politic to say 
so ?" He responded : "That expression is a truth of all 
human experience, 'a house divided against itself cannot 
stand,' and 'he that runs may read.' The proposition also 
is true, and has been for six thousand years. I want to 
use some universally known figure expressed in simple 
language as universally well-known, that may strike home 
to the minds of men in order to raise them up to the peril 
of the times. I do not believe I would be right in chang- 
ing or omitting it. I would rather be defeated with this 
expression in the speech, and uphold and discuss it before 
the people, than be victorious without it.". This was not 
the first time Lincoln had endorsed the dogma that our 
Government could not long endure part slave and part 
free. He had incorporated it in a speech at Bloomington 
in 1856, but in obedience to the emphatic protest of Judge 
T. Lyle Dickey and others, who conceived the idea that 
its "delivery would make abolitionists of all the North and 
slavery propagandists of all the South, and thereby precipi- 
tate a struggle which might end in disunion," he consented 
to suspend its repetition, but only for that campaign. 4 Now, 

4 In a letter dated December 8, 1866, written to Herndon and 
used by him as a footnote in the original edition, T. Lyle Dickey 
wrote: "After the meeting was over Mr. Lincoln and I returned 
to the Pike House, where we occupied the same room. Imme- 
diately on reaching the room I said to him, 'What in God's name 
could induce you to promulgate such an opinion?' He replied 
familiarly, 'Upon my soul, Dickey, I think it is true.' I reasoned 
to show it was not a correct opinion. He argued strenuously 
that the opinion was a sound one. At length I said, 'Suppose 
you are right, that our Government cannot last part free and part 


however, the situation had changed somewhat. There had 
been a shifting of scenes, so to speak. The Republican 
party had gained some in strength and more in moral ef- 
fectiveness and force. Nothing could keep back in Lin- 
coln any longer, sentiments of right and truth, and he pre- 
pared to give the fullest expression to both in all future 

Before delivering his speech he invited a dozen or so 
of his friends over to the library of the State House, 
where he read and submitted it to them. After the read- 
ing he asked each man for his opinion. Some condemned 
and not one endorsed it. One man, more forcible than 
elegant, characterized it as a "d — d fool utterance;" an- 
other said the doctrine was "ahead of its time ;" and still 
another contended that it would drive away a good many 
voters fresh from the Democrats ranks. Each man at- 
tacked it in his criticism. I was the last to respond. Al- 
though the doctrine announced was rather rank, yet it 
suited my views, and I said, "Lincoln, deliver that speech 
as read and it will make you President." At the time I 
hardly realized the force of my prophecy. Having pa- 
tiently listened to these various criticisms from his friends 
— all of which with a single exception were adverse — he 
rose from his chair, and after alluding to the careful study 
and intense thought he had given the question, he answered 
all their objections substantially as follows : "Friends, this 
thing has been retarded long enough. The time has come 
when these sentiments should be uttered ; and if it is de- 
creed that I should go down because of this speech, then 
let me go down linked to the truth — let me die in the ad- 
vocacy of what is just and right." The next day, the 17th, 
the speech was delivered just as we had heard it read. 
Up to this time Seward had held sway over the North by 

slave, what good is to be accomplished by inculcating that opinion 
(or truth, if you please) in the minds of the people?' After some 
minutes reflection he rose and approached me, extended his right 
hand to take mine, and said, 'From respect for your judgment, 
Dickey, I'll promise you I won't teach the doctrine again during 
this campaign'." 


his "higher-law" sentiments, but the "house-divided- 
against-itself" speech by Lincoln in my opinion drove the 
nail into Seward's political coffin. 5 

If any student of oratorical history, after reading 
Lincoln's speech on this occasion, will refer to Webster's 
reply to Hayne in the Senate, he will be struck with the 
similarity in figure and thought in the opening lines of 
both speeches. In fact, it may not be amiss to note that, 
in this instance, Webster's effort was carefully read by 
Lincoln and served in part as his model. 

Lincoln had now created in reality a more profound im- 
pression than he or his friends anticipated. Many Repub- 
licans deprecated the advanced ground he had taken, the 
more so as the Democrats rejoiced that it afforded them 
an issue clear and well-defined. Numbers of his friends 
distant from Springfield, on reading his speech, wrote 
him censorious letters ; and one well-informed co-worker 
(Leonard Swett) predicted his defeat, charging it to the 
first ten lines of the speech. These complaints, coming 
apparently from every quarter, Lincoln bore with great 
patience. To one complainant who followed him into his 
office he said proudly, "If I had to draw a pen across my 
record, and erase my whole life from sight, and I had one 
poor gift or choice left as to what I should save from the 
wreck, I should choose that speech and leave it to the world 

Meanwhile Douglas had returned from Washington to 
his home in Chicago. Here he rested for a few days until 
his friends and co-workers had arranged the details of 
a public reception on the 9th of July, when he delivered 
from the balcony of the Tremont House a speech intended 
as an answer to the one made by Lincoln in Springfield. 
Lincoln was present at this reception, but took no part 

5 In all probability, Herndon's foresight was not quite so 
remarkable as he later remembered it to have been. On October 4, 
1858, in a letter to Theodore Parker, he commented on Parker's 
choice of Seward, Chase or Trumbull for the next Republican 
nominee as follows : "In answer to this I say 'we of the West 
have no choice — we do not care who it is, so that he is a good 
Republican'," and so forth. Newton, Lincoln and Hcrndon, p. 222. 


in it. The next day, however, he replied. Both speeches 
were delivered at the same place. Leaving Chicago, Doug- 
las passed on down to Bloomington and Springfield, where 
he spoke on the 16th and 17th of July respectively. On the 
evening of the latter day Lincoln responded again in a 
most effective and convincing effort. The contest now 
took on a different phase. Lincoln's Republican friends 
urged him to draw Douglas into a joint debate, and 
he accordingly sent him a challenge on the 24th of 
July. It is not necessary, I suppose, to reproduce here 
the correspondence that passed between these great leaders. 
On the 30th Douglas finally accepted the proposition to 
"divide time, and address the same audiences," naming 
seven different places, one in each Congressional district, 
outside of Chicago and Springfield, for joint meetings. 
The places and dates were, Ottawa, August 21 ; Freeport, 
August 27 ; Jonesboro, September 1 5 ; Charleston, Sep- 
tember 18, Galesburg, October 7; Quincy, October 13; 
and Alton, October 15. "I agree to your suggestion," 
wrote Douglas, "that we shall alternately open and close 
the discussion. I will speak at Ottawa one hour, you can 
reply, occupying an hour and a half, and I will then follow 
for half an hour. At Freeport you shall open the dis- 
cussion and speak one hour, I will follow for an hour 
and a half, and you can then reply for half an hour. We 
will alternate in like manner in each successive place." 
To this arrangement Lincoln on the 31st gave his consent, 
"although," he wrote, "by the terms as you propose you 
take four openings and closes to my three." 

Among the items of preparation on Lincoln's part hith- 
erto withheld is the following letter, which explains itself : 

"Springfield, June 28, 1858. 
"A. Campbell, Esq. 

"My Dear Sir: — In 1856 you gave me authority to draw 
on you for any sum not exceeding five hundred dollars. I 
see clearly that such a privilege would be more available now 
than it was then. I am aware that times are tighter now than 


they were then. Please write me at all events, and whether 
you can now do anything or not I shall continue grateful for 
the past. 

''Yours very truly, 

"A. Lincoln." 

The following letter from Mr. Campbell is not without 
interest : 

"La Salle, III., Dec. 12th, 1888. 
"Jesse W. Weik, Esq. 

"My Dear Sir: — I gave Mr. Lincoln some money in the 
office of Lincoln & Herndon in Springfield in 1856, but I do 
not remember the exact amount. It was, however, between 
two and three hundred dollars. I never had Mr. Lincoln's 
obligation for the payment of any money. I never kept any 
account of nor charged my memory with any money I gave 
him. It was given to defray his personal expenses and other- 
wise promote the interest of a cause which I sincerely be- 
lieved to be for the public good, and without the thought or 
expectation of a dollar of it ever being returned. From what 
I knew and learned of his careful habits in money matters in 
the campaign of 1856 I am entirely confident that every dollar 
and dime I ever gave was carefully and faithfully applied to 
the uses and purposes for which it was given. 

"Sincerely yours, 

"A. Campbell." e 

History furnishes few characters whose lives and careers 
were so nearly parallel as those of Lincoln and Douglas. 
They met for the first time at the Legislature in Vandalia 
in 1834, where Lincoln was a member of the House of 
Representatives and Douglas was in the lobby. The next 
year Douglas was also a member. In 1839 both were ad- 
mitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Illinois on the 
same day. In 1841 both courted the same young lady. In 
1846 both represented Illinois in Congress at Washington, 
the one in the upper and the other in the lower House. In 
1858 they were opposing candidates for United States 

6 Herndon used these two letters as a footnote in the original 


Senator; and finally, to complete the remarkable counter- 
part, both were candidates for the Presidency in 1860. 
While it is true that their ambitions ran in parallel lines, 
yet they were exceedingly unlike in all other particulars. 
Douglas was short, — something over five feet high, — heavy 
set, with a large head, broad shoulders, deep chest, and 
striking features. He was polite and affable, but fearless. 
He had that unique trait, magnetism, fully developed in his 
nature, and that attracted a host of friends and readily 
made him a popular idol. He had had extensive experience 
in debate, and had been trained by contact for years with 
the great minds and orators of Congress. He was full of 
political history, well informed on general topics, eloquent 
almost to the point of brilliancy, self-confident to the point 
of arrogance, and a dangerous competitor in every respect 
What he lacked in ingenuity he made up in strategy, and 
if in debate he could not tear down the structure of his 
opponent's argument by a direct and violent attack, he was 
by no means reluctant to resort to a strained restatement 
of the latter 's position or to the extravagance of ridicule. 
Lincoln knew his man thoroughly and well. He had often 
met Douglas on the stump; was familiar with his tactics, 
and though fully aware of his "want of fixed political 
morals," was not averse to measuring swords with the 
elastic and flexible "Little Giant." ^ 

An erroneous impression has grown up in recent years 
concerning Douglas's ability and standing as a lawyer. 
One of the latest biographies of Lincoln credits him with 
many of the artifices of the "shyster." This is not only 
unfair, but decidedly untrue. I always found Douglas at 
the bar to be a broad, fair, and liberal-minded man. Al- 
though not a thorough student of the law his large fund of 
good commonsense kept him in the front rank. He was 
equally generous and courteous, and he never stooped to 
gain a case. I know that Lincoln entertained the same 
view of him. It was only in politics that Douglas demon- 
strated any want of inflexibility and rectitude, and then 
only did Lincoln manifest a lack of faith in his morals.'j 
7 Original footnote. 


Lincoln himself was constructed on an entirely different 
foundation. His base was plain commonsense, direct state- 
ment, and the inflexibility of logic. In physical make-up 
he was cold — at least not magnetic — and made no effort to 
dazzle people by his bearing. He cared nothing for a fol- 
lowing, and though he had often before struggled for a 
political prize, yet in his efforts he never had strained his 
well-known spirit of fairness or open love of the truth. 
He analyzed everything, laid every statement bare, and by 
dint of his broad reasoning powers and manliness of ad- 
mission inspired his hearers with deep conviction of his 
earnestness and honesty. Douglas may have electrified the 
crowds with his eloquence or charmed them with his 
majestic bearing and dexterity in debate, but as each man, 
after the meetings were over and the applause had died 
away, went to his home, his head rang with Lincoln's 
logic and appeal to manhood. 

A brief description of Mr. Lincoln's appearance on the 
stump and of his manner when speaking may not be with- 
out interest. When standing erect he was six feet four 
inches high. He was lean in flesh and ungainly in figure. 
Aside from the sad, pained look due to habitual melancholy, 
his face had no characteristic or fixed expression. He was 
thin through the chest, and hence slightly stoop-shouldered. 
When he arose to address courts, juries, or crowds of peo- 
ple, his body inclined forward to a slight degree. At first he 
was very awkward, and it seemed a real labor to adjust 
himself to his surroundings. He struggled for a time under 
a feeling of apparent diffidence and sensitiveness, and these 
only added to his awkwardness. I have often seen and sym- 
pathized with Mr. Lincoln during these moments. When he 
began speaking, his voice was shrill, piping, and unpleasant. 
His manner, his attitude, his dark, yellow face, wrinkled 
and dry, his oddity of pose, his diffident movements — 
everything seemed to be against him, but only for a short 
time. After having arisen, he generally placed his hands 
behind him, the back of his left hand in the palm of his 
right, the thumb and fingers of his right hand clasped 
around the left arm at the wrist. For a few moments he 


displayed the combination of awkwardness, sensitiveness, 
and diffidence. As he proceeded he became somewhat ani- 
mated, and to keep in harmony with his growing warmth 
his hands relaxed their grasp and fell to his side. Presently 
he clasped them in front of him, interlocking his fingers, 
one thumb meanwhile chasing anothen/His speech now 
requiring more emphatic utterance, his fingers unlocked 
and his hands fell apart. His left arm was thrown behind, 
the back of his hand resting against his body, his right 
hand seeking his side. By this time he had gained suffi- 
cient composure, and his real speech began. He did not 
gesticulate as much with his hands as with his head. He 
used the latter frequently, throwing it with vim this way 
and that. This movement was a significant one when he 
sought to enforce his statement. It sometimes came with 
a quick jerk, as if throwing off electric sparks into com- 
bustible material. He never sawed the air nor rent space 
into tatters and rags as some orators do. He never acted 
for stage effect. He was cool, considerate, reflective — in 
time self-possessed and self-reliant. His style was clear, 
terse, and compact. In argument he was logical, demon- 
strative, and fair. He was careless of his dress, and his 
clothes, instead of fitting neatly as did the garments of 
Douglas on the latter's well-rounded form, hung loosely on 
his giant frame. As he moved along in his speech he be- 
came freer and less uneasy in his movements ; to that ex- 
tent he was graceful. He had a perfect naturalness, a 
strong individuality; and to that extent he was dignified. 
He despised glitter, show, set forms, and shams. He 
spoke with effectiveness and to move the judgment as well 
as the emotions of men. There was a world of meaning 
and emphasis in the long, bony finger of his right hand as 
he dotted the ideas on the minds of his hearers. Some- 
times, to express joy or pleasure, he would raise both hands 
at an angle of about fifty degrees, the palms upward, as 
if desirous of embracing the spirit of that which he loved. 
If the sentiment was one of detestation — denunciation of 
slavery, for example — both arms, thrown upward and fists 
clenched, swept through the air, and he expressed an exe- 


cration that was truly sublime^ This was one of his most 
effective gestures, and signified most vividly a fixed deter- 
mination to drag down the object of his hatred and trample 
it in the dust. He always stood squarely on his feet, toe 
even with toe; that is, he never put one foot before the 
other. He neither touched nor leaned on anything for 
support. He made but few changes in his positions and 
attitudes. He never ranted, never walked backward and 
forward on the platform. To ease his arms he frequently 
caught hold, with his left hand, of the lapel of his coat, 
keeping his thumb upright and leaving his right hand free 
to gesticulate. The designer of the monument recently 
erected in Chicago has happily caught him in just this 
attitude. As he proceeded with his speech the exercise of 
his vocal organs altered somewhat the tone of his voice. 
It lost in a measure its former acute and shrilling pitch, 
and mellowed into a more harmonious and pleasant sound. 
His form expanded, and, notwithstanding the sunken 
breast, he rose up a splendid and imposing figure. In his 
defense of the Declaration of Independence — his greatest 
inspiration — he was "tremendous in the directness of his 
utterances ; he rose to impassioned eloquence, unsurpassed 
by Patrick Henry, Mirabeau, or Vergniaud, as his soul was 
inspired with the thought of human right and Divine jus- 
tice." 8 His little gray eyes flashed in a face aglow with 
the fire of his profound thoughts ; and his uneasy move- 
ments and diffident manner sunk themselves beneath the 
wave of righteous indignation that came sweeping over 
him. Such was Lincoln the orator. 

We can somewhat appreciate the feeling with which 
Douglas, aggressive and fearless though he was, welcomed 
a contest with such a man as Lincoln. Four years before, 
in a joint debate with him, he had asked for a cessation 
of forensic hostilities, conceding that his opponent of rail- 
splitting fame had given him "more trouble than all the 
United States Senate together." Now he was brought face 
to face with him again. 

It is unnecessary and not in keeping with the purpose 

8 Horace White to Herndon, June 9, 1865. 


of this work to reproduce here the speeches made by either 
Lincoln or Douglas in their justly renowned debate. Briefly 
stated, Lincoln's position was announced in his opening 
speech at Springfield : " 'A house divided against itself can- 
not stand.' I believe this Government cannot endure per- 
manently half slave and half free. I do not expect the 
Union to be dissolved, I do not expect the house to fall — 
but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become 
all the one thing or the other. Either the opponents of 
slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it 
where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in 
the course of ultimate extinction ; or its advocates will push 
it forward till it becomes alike lawful in all the states, 
old as well as new, North as well as South." The posi- 
tion of Douglas on the question of slavery was one of 
indifference. He advocated with all his power the doctrine 
of "Popular Sovereignty," a proposition, as quaintly put 
by Lincoln, which meant that, "if one man chooses to 
enslave another, no third man has a right to object." At 
the last joint discussion in Alton, Lincoln, after reflecting 
on the patriotism of any man who was so indifferent to the 
wrong of slavery that he cared not whether it was voted up 
or down, closed his speech with this stirring summary: 
"That [slavery] is the real issue. That is the issue that will 
continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge 
Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal strug- 
gle between these two principles — right and wrong — 
throughout the world. They are the two principles that 
have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and 
will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common 
right of humanity, and the other the divine right of kings. 
It is the same principle, in whatever shape it develops 
itself. It is the same spirit that says: 'You work and toil 
and earn bread, and I eat it.' No matter in what shape it 
comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to 
bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit 
of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology 
for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical prin- 


It is unnecessary, I presume, to insert here the seven 
questions which Douglas propounded to Lincoln at their 
first meeting- at Ottawa, nor the historic four which Lin- 
coln asked at Freeport. It only remains to say that in 
answering Lincoln at Freeport, Douglas accomplished his 
own political downfall. He was swept entirely away from 
his former foundation, and even the glory of a subsequent 
election to the Senate never restored him to it. 

[It is generally conceded that Lincoln's second Freeport 
question cost Douglas the support of the South in 1860. 
"Can the people of the United States Territory," Lincoln 
asked, "in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen 
of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits prior 
to the formation of a State constitution ?" 

Douglas replied in the following words : "I answer em- 
phatically, as Mr. Lincoln has heard me answer a hundred 
times from every stump in Illinois, that in my opinion the 
people of a Territory can, by lawful means, exclude slavery 
from their limits prior to the formation of a State con- 
stitution. Mr. Lincoln knew that I had answered that 
question over and over again. He heard me argue the 
Nebraska bill on that principle all over the State in 1854, 
in 1855, and in 1856, and he has no excuse for pretending 
to be in doubt as to my position on that question. It 
matters not what way the Supreme Court may hereafter 
decide as to the abstract question whether slavery may or 
may not go into a Territory under the Constitution, the 
people have the lawful means to introduce it or exclude it 
as they please, for the reason that slavery cannot exist a 
day or an hour anywhere, unless it is supported by local 
police regulations. Those police regulations can only be 
established by the local legislature ; and if the people are 
opposed to slavery, they will elect representatives to that 
body who will by unfriendly legislation effectually prevent 
the introduction of it into their midst. If, on the contrary, 
they are for it, their legislation will favor its extension. 
Hence, no matter what the decision of the Supreme Court 
may be on that abstract question, still the right of the 
people to make a Slave Territory or a Free Territory is 


perfect and complete under the Nebraska bill. I hope Mr. 
Lincoln deems my answer satisfactory on that point."] 

During the canvass Mr. Lincoln, in addition to the 
seven meetings with Douglas, filled thirty-one appoint- 
ments made by the State Central Committee, besides speak- 
ing at many other times and places not previously adver- 
tised. In his trips to and fro over the State, between meet- 
ings, he would stop at Springfield sometimes, to consult 
with his friends or to post himself up on questions that 
occurred during the canvass. He kept me busy hunting 
up old speeches and gathering facts and statistics at the 
State library. I made liberal clippings bearing in any 
way on the questions of the hour from every newspaper 
I happened to see, and kept him supplied with them ; and 
on one or two occasions, in answer to letters and tele- 
grams, I sent books forward to him. He had a little 
leather bound book, fastened in front with a clasp, in 
which he and I both kept inserting newspaper slips and 
newspaper comments until the canvass opened. In ar- 
ranging for the joint meetings and managing the crowds 
Douglas enjoyed one great advantage. He had been United 
States Senator for several years, and had influential friends 
holding comfortable government offices all over the State. 
These men were on hand at every meeting, losing no op- 
portunity to applaud lustily all the points Douglas made 
and to lionize him in every conceivable way. The ingen- 
iously contrived display of their enthusiasm had a marked 
effect on certain crowds — a fact of which Lincoln fre- 
quently complained to his friends. One who accompanied 
him during the canvass (Henry C. Whitney) relates this: 
"Lincoln and I were at the Centralia agricultural fair the 
day after the debate at Jonesboro. Night came on and we 
were tired, having been on the fair grounds all day. We 
were to go north on the Illinois Central railroad. The train 
was due at midnight, and the depot was full of people. I 
managed to get a chair for Lincoln in the office of the super- 
intendent of the railroad, but small politicians would intrude 
so that he could scarcely get a moment's sleep. The train 
came and was filled instantly. I got a seat near the door 


for Lincoln and myself. He was worn out, and had to 
meet Douglas the next day at Charleston. An empty car, 
called a saloon car, was hitched on to the rear of the train 
and locked up. I asked the conductor, who knew Lincoln 
and myself well, — we were both attorneys of the road, — 
if Lincoln could not ride in that car ; that he was exhausted 
and needed rest ; but the conductor refused. I afterwards 
got him in by a stratagem. At the same time George B. 
McClellan in person was taking Douglas around in a spe- 
cial car and special train ; and that was the unjust treat- 
ment Lincoln got from the Illinois Central railroad. Ev- 
ery interest of that road and every employee was against 
Lincoln and for Douglas." / 

The heat and dust and bonfires of the campaign at last 
came to an end. The election took place on the second 
of November, and while Lincoln received of the popular 
vote a majority of over four thousand, yet the returns 
from the legislative districts foreshadowed his defeat. In 
fact, when the Senatorial election took place in the Legisla- 
ture, Douglas received fifty- four and Lincoln forty-six 
votes — one of the results of the lamentable apportion- 
ment law then in operation. 

Horace Greeley was one of the most vigilant men dur- 
ing the debate. He wrote to Lincoln and me many letters 
which I still retain. In a letter to me during the campaign, 
October 6, he says with reference to Douglas : "In his pres- 
ent position I could not of course support him, but he need 
not have been in this position had the Republicans of 
Illinois been as wise and far-seeing as they are earnest 
and true . . . but seeing things are as they are, I do not 
wish to be quoted as authority for making trouble and 
division among our friends." Soon after hearing of the 
result of the November election he again writes: "I ad- 
vise you privately that Mr. Douglas would be the strong- 
est candidate that the Democratic party could present for 
President ; but they will not present him. The old leaders 
wouldn't endorse it. As he is doomed to be slaughtered 
at Charleston it is good policy to fatten him meantime. 
He will cut up the better at killing time." An inquiry for 


his preference as to presidential timber elicited this re- 
sponse, December 4th. "As to President, my present judg- 
ment is Edward Bates, with John M. Read for Vice; but 
I am willing to go anything that looks strong. I don't wish 
to load the team heavier than it will pull through. As to 
Douglas, he is like the man's boy who (he said) 'didn't 
weigh so much as he expected, and he always knew he 
wouldn't.' I never thought him very sound coin ; but I 
didn't think it best to beat him on the back of his anti- 
Lecompton fight, and I am still of that opinion." s 

The letters of Lincoln at this period are the best evi- 
dence of his feelings now obtainable, and of how he ac- 
cepted his defeat. To Henry Asbury, a friend who had 
written him a cheerful letter admonishing him not to give 
up the battle, he responded : 

"Springfield, November 19, 1858. 
''Mr. Henry Asbury, 

"My Dear Sir: — Yours of the 13th was received some days 
ago. The fight mUst go on. The cause of civil liberty must 
not be surrendered at the end of one or even one hundred de- 
feats. Douglas had the ingenuity to be supported in the late 
contest both as the best means to break down and to uphold 
the slave interest. No ingenuity can keep these antagonistic 
elements in harmony long. Another explosion will soon come. 

"Yours truly, 

"A. Lincoln." 

To another friend (A. G. Henry) on the same day he 
writes : "I am glad I made the late race. It gave me a hear- 
ing on the great and durable questions of the age which I 
could have had in no other way ; and though I now sink out 
of view and shall be forgotten, I believe I have made some 
marks which will tell for the cause of liberty long after I 
am gone." 

Before passing to later events in Mr. Lincoln's life it 
is proper to include in this chapter, as a specimen of his 
oratory at this time, his eloquent reference to the Declara- 
tion of Independence found in a speech delivered at Beards- 

Original footnote. 


town, August 12, and not at Lewiston five days later, as 
many biographers have it. Aside from its concise reason- 
ing, the sublime thought it suggests entitles it to rank be- 
side that great masterpiece, his Gettysburg address. After 
alluding to the suppression by the Fathers of the Repub- 
lic of the slave trade, he says : "These by their represen- 
tatives in old Independence Hall said to the whole race of 
men : 'We hold these truths to be self-evident : that all men 
are created equal ; that they are endowed by their Creator 
with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, 
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' This was their 
majestic interpretation of the economy of the universe. 
This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding 
of the justice of the Creator to his creatures — yes, gentle- 
men, to all his creatures, to the whole great family of men. 
In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the di- 
vine image and likeness was sent into the world to be 
trodden on and degraded and imbruted by its fellows. They 
grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but 
they reached forward and seized upon the farthest pos- 
terity. They erected a beacon to guide their children, 
and their children's children, and the countless myriads who 
should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen 
as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to 
breed tyrants, and so they established these great self- 
evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, 
some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine 
that none but rich men, none but white men, or none but 
Anglo-Saxon white men were entitled to life, liberty, and 
the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up 
again to the Declaration of Independence and take cour- 
age to renew the battle which their fathers began, so that 
truth and justice and mercy and all the humane and Chris- 
tian virtues might not be extinguished from the land ; so 
that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe 
the great principles on which the temple of liberty was be- 
ing built. 

"Now, my countrymen, if you have been taught doc- 
trines conflicting with the great landmarks of the Declara- 


tion of Independence; if you have listened to suggestions 
which would take away from its grandeur and mutilate 
the fair symmetry of its proportions ; if you have been in- 
clined to believe that all men are not created equal in those 
inalienable rights enumerated by our chart of liberty: let 
me entreat you to come back. Return to the fountain 
whose waters spring close by the blood of the Revolution. 
Think nothing of me ; take no thought for the political 
fate of any man whomsoever, but come back to the truths 
that are in the Declaration of Independence. You may do 
anything with me you choose, if you will but heed these 
sacred principles. You may not only defeat me for the 
Senate, but you may take me and put me to death. While 
pretending no indifference to earthly honors, I do claim 
to be actuated in this contest by something higher than an 
anxiety for office. I charge you to drop every paltry and 
insignificant thought for any man's success. It is nothing ; 
I am nothing; Judge Douglas is nothing. But do not 
destroy that immortal emblem of humanity — the Declara- 
tion of American Independence." 

One of the newspaper men (Horace White) who heard 
this majestic oration wrote me as follows : "The apostrophe 
to the Declaration of Independence to which you refer was 
written by myself from a vivid recollection of Mr. Lincoln's 
speech at Beardstown, August 12, 1858. On the day fol- 
lowing the delivery of the speech, as Mr. Lincoln and I 
were proceeding by steamer from Beardstown to Havana, 
I said to him that I had been greatly impressed by his 
concluding remarks of the day previous, and that if he 
would write them out for me I felt confident their publi- 
cation would be highly beneficial to our cause as well as 
honorable to his own fame. He replied that he had but a 
faint recollection of any portion of the speech; that, like 
all his campaign speeches, it was necessarily extempora- 
neous; and that its good or bad effect depended upon the 
inspiration of the moment. He added that I had probably 
over-estimated the value of the remarks referred to. In 
reply to my question whether he had any objection to my 
writing them out from memory and putting them in the 


form of a verbatim report, he said, 'None at all.' I ac- 
cordingly did so. I felt confident then and I feel equally 
assured now that I transcribed the peroration with abso- 
lute fidelity as to ideas and commendable fidelity as to lan- 
guage. I certainly aimed to reproduce his exact words, 
and my recollection of the passage as spoken was very 
clear. After I had finished writing I read it to Mr. Lin- 
coln. When I had finished the reading he said, 'Well, 
those are my views, and if I said anything on the subject 
I must have said substantially that, but not nearly so well 
as that is said.' I remember this remark quite distinctly, 
and if the old steamer Ertite& is still in existence I could Ai^* 
show the place where we were sitting. Having secured 
his assent to the publication I forwarded it to our paper, 
but inasmuch as my report of the Beardstown meeting had 
been already mailed I incorporated the remarks on the 
Declaration of Independence in my letter from Lewiston 
two or three days subsequently. ... I do not remember 
ever having related these facts before, although they have 
often recurred to me as I have seen the peroration resus- 
citated again and again, and published (with good effect, / 
I trust) in the newspapers of this country and England." ^ 



. * to the public — for it is apparent he is fast approaching the 
*p*** 'great crisis of his career — it "may not be entirely inappro- 
priate to take a nearer and more personal view of him. A 
knowledge of his personal views and actions, a glimpse 
through the doorway of his home, and a more thorough 
acquaintance with his marked and strong points as they 
developed, will aid us greatly in forming our general esti- 
mate of the man. When Mr. Lincoln entered the domain 
of investigation he was a severe and persistent thinker, and 
had wonderful endurance; hence he was abstracted, and 
for that reason at times was somewhat unsocial, reticent, 
and uncommunicative. After his marriage it cannot be said 
that he liked the society of ladies ; in fact, it was just what 
he did not like, though one of his biographers says other- 
wise. Lincoln had none of the tender ways that please a 
woman, and he could not, it seemed, by any positive act 
of his own make her happy. If his wife was happy, she was 
naturally happy, or made herself so in spite of countless 
drawbacks. He was, however, a good husband in his own 
peculiar way, and in his own way only. 

If exhausted from severe and long-continued thought, 
he had to touch the earth again to renew his strength. When 
this weariness set in he would stop thought, and get down 
and play with a little dog or kitten to recover ; and when 
the recovery came he would push it aside to play with its 
own tail. He treated men and women in much the same 
way. For fashionable society he had a marked dislike, 
although he appreciated its value in promoting the welfare 


of a man ambitious to succeed in politics. If he was 
invited out to dine or to mingle in some social gathering, 
and came in contact with the ladies, he treated them with 
becoming politeness ; but the consciousness of his short- 
comings as a society man rendered him unusually diffident, 
and at the very first opportunity he would have the men 
separated from their ladies and crowded close around him 
in one corner of the parlor, listening to one of his charac- 
teristic stories. That a lady 1 as proud and as ambitious to 
exercise the rights of supremacy in society as Mary Todd 
should repent of her marriage to the man I have just de- 
scribed surely need occasion no surprise in the mind of 
anyone. Both she and the man whose hand she accepted 
acted along the lines of human conduct, and both reaped 
the bitter harvest of conjugal infelicity. In dealing with 
Mr. Lincoln's home life perhaps I am revealing an ele- 
ment of his character that has heretofore been kept- from 
the world ; but in doing so I feel sure I am treading on 
no person's toes, for all the actors in this domestic drama 
are dead, and the world seems ready to hear the facts. 
As his married life, in the opinion of all his friends, ex- 
erted a peculiar influence over Mr. Lincoln's political career 
there can be no impropriety, I apprehend, in throwing the 
light on it now. Mrs. Lincoln's disposition and nature 
have been dwelt upon in another chapter, and enough has 
been told to show that one of her greatest misfortunes was 
her inability to control her temper. Admit that, and every- 
thing can be explained. However cold and abstracted her 
husband may have appeared to others, however impressive, 
when aroused, may have seemed his indignation in public, 
he never gave vent to his feelings at home. He always 
meekly accepted as final the authority of his wife in all 

1 "Mrs. Lincoln," said Herndon, "was decidedly pro-slavery 
in her views. One day she was invited to take a ride with a 
neighboring family, some of whose members still reside in Spring- 
field. 'If ever my husband dies,' she ejaculated during the ride, 
'his spirit will never find me living outside the limits of a slave 
State.' " 


matters of domestic concern. 2 This may explain somewhat 
the statement of Judge Davis that, "as a general rule, when 
all the lawyers of a Saturday evening would go home and 
see their families and friends, Lincoln would find some 
excuse and refuse to go. We said nothing, but it seemed 
to us all he was not domestically happy." 3 He exercised 
no government of any kind over his household. His 
children did much as they pleased. Many of their antics 
he approved, and he restrained them in nothing. He never 
reproved them or gave them a fatherly frown. He was the 
most indulgent parent I have ever known. He was in the 
habit, when at home on Sunday, of bringing his two boys, 
Willie and Thomas — or "Tad" — down to the office to re- 
main while his wife attended church. He seldom accompa- 
nied her there. The boys were absolutely unrestrained in 
their amusement. If they pulled down all the books from 
the shelves, bent the points of all the pens, overturned ink- 
stands, scattered law-papers over the floor, or threw the 
pencils into the spittoon, it never disturbed the serenity of 
their father's good-naturexFrequently absorbed in thought, 
he never observed their mischievous but destructive pranks 
— as his unfortunate partner did, who thought much, but 

(* said nothing — and, even if brought to his attention, he vir- 
tually encouraged their repetition by declining to show any 
substantial evidence of parental disapproval. After church 
was over the boys and their father, climbing down the 
office stairs, ruefully turned their steps homeward. They 
mingled with the throngs of well-dressed people returning 
from church, the majority of whom might well have won- 
dered if the trio they passed were going to a fireside where 

2 In a footnote to the original edition Herdon wrote in il- 
lustration of this remark: "One day a man making some im- 
provements in Lincoln's yard suggested to Mrs. Lincoln the 
propriety of cutting down one of the trees, to which she willingly 
assented. Before doing so, however, the man came down to 
our office and consulted Lincoln himself about it. 'What did 
Mrs. Lincoln say?' inquired the latter. 'She consented to have it 
taken away.' Then, in God's name,' exclaimed Lincoln, 'cut it 
down to the roots !' " 

3 See p. 249 n. 


love and white-winged peace reigned supreme. A near 
relative of Mrs. Lincoln, in explanation of the unhappy 
condition of things in that lady's household, offered this 
suggestion : 

"Mrs. Lincoln came of the best stock, and was raised 
like a lady. Her husband was her opposite, in origin, in 
education, in breeding, in everything; and it is therefore 
quite natural that she should complain if he answered the 
door-bell himself instead of sending the servant to do so ; 
neither is she to be condemned if, as you say, she raised 
'merry war' because he persisted in using his own knife in 
the butter, instead of the silver-handled one intended for 
that purpose." Such want of social polish on the part of 
her husband of course gave Mrs. Lincoln great offense, and 
therefore in commenting on it she cared neither for time 
nor place. Her frequent outbursts of temper precipitated 
many an embarrassment from which Lincoln with great 
difficulty extricated himself. 

A lady relative who lived for two years with the Lin- 
colns told me that Mr. Lincoln was in the habit of lying 
on the floor with the back of a chair for a pillow when he 
read. One evening, when in this position in the hall, a 
knock was heard at the front door and although in his 
shirt-sleeves he answered the call. Two ladies were at the 
door whom he invited into the parlor, notifying them in 
his open familiar way, that he would "trot the women folks 
out." Mrs. Lincoln from an adjoining room witnessed the 
ladies' entrance and overheard her husband's jocose expres- 
sion. Her indignation was so instantaneous she made the 
situation exceedingly interesting for him, and he was glad 
to retreat from the mansion. He did not return till very 
late at night and then slipped quietly in at a rear door. 4 

Mrs. Lincoln, on account of her peculiar nature, could 
not long retain a servant in her employ. The sea was 
never so placid but that a breeze would ruffle its waters. 
She loved show and attention, and if, when she glorified 
her family descent or indulged in one of her strange out- 
breaks, the servant could simulate absolute obsequiousness 

4 Original footnote. 


or had tact enough to encourage her social pretensions, 
Mrs. Lincoln was for the time her firmest friend. One 
servant, who adjusted herself to suit the lady's capricious 
ways, lived with the family for several years. She told 
me that at the time of the debate between Douglas and 
Lincoln she often heard the latter's wife boast that she 
would yet be mistress of the White House. The secret 
of her ability to endure the eccentricities of her mistress 
came out in the admission that Mr. Lincoln gave her an 
extra dollar each week on condition that she would brave 
whatever storms might arise, and suffer whatever might 
befall her, without complaint. It was a rather severe con- 
dition, but she lived rigidly up to her part of the contract. 
The money was paid secretly and without the knowledge 
of Mrs. Lincoln. ^Frequently, after tempestuous scenes 
between the mistress and her servant, Lincoln at the first 
opportunity would place his hand encouragingly on the 
latter's shoulder with the admonition, "Mary, keep up your 
courage." It may not be without interest to add that the 
servant afterwards married a man who enlisted in the 
army. In the spring of 1865 his wife managed to reach 
Washington to secure her husband's release from the 
service. After some effort she succeeded in obtaining an 
interview with the President. He was glad to see her, gave 
her a basket of fruit, and directed her to call the next day 
and obtain a pass through the lines and money to buy 
clothes for herself and children. That night he was 

The following letter to the editor of a newspaper in 
Springfield will serve as a specimen of the perplexities 
which frequently beset Mr. Lincoln when his wife came 
in contact with others. What in this instance she said to 
the paper carrier we do not know ; we can only intelligently 
infer. I have no personal recollection of the incident, 
although I knew the man to whom it was addressed quite 
well. The letter only recently came to light. I insert it 
without further comment. 



"Springfield, III., February 20, 1857. 

"John E. Rosette, Esq. 

"Dear Sir: — Your note about the little paragraph in the 
Republican was received yesterday, since which time I have 
been too unwell to notice it. I had not supposed you wrote or 
approved it. The whole originated in mistake. You know by 
the conversation with me that I thought the establishment of 
the paper unfortunate, but I always expected to throw no ob- 
stacle in its way, and to patronize it to the extent of taking 
and paying for one copy. When the paper was brought to 
my house, my wife said to me, 'Now are you going to take 
another worthless little paper?' I said to her evasively, T 
have not directed the paper to be left.' From this, in my ab- 
sence, she sent the message to the carrier. This is the whole 

"Yours truly, 

"A. Lincoln." 

A man once called at the house to learn why Mrs. Lin- 
coln had so unceremoniously discharged his niece from 
her employ. Mrs. Lincoln met him at the door, and being 
somewhat wrought up, gave vent to her feelings, resorting 
to such violent gestures and emphatic language that the 
man was glad to beat a hasty retreat. He at once started 
out to find Lincoln, determined to exact from him proper 
satisfaction for his wife's action. Lincoln was entertaining 
a crowd in a store at the time. The man, still laboring 
under some agitation, called him to the door and made the 
demand. Lincoln listened for a moment to his story. "My 
friend," he interrupted, "I regret to hear this, but let me 
ask you in all candor, can't you endure for a few mo- 
ments what I have had as my daily portion for the last 
fifteen years?" These words were spoken so mournfully 
and with such a look of distress that the man was com- 
pletely disarmed. It was a case that appealed to his feel- 
ings. Grasping the unfortunate husband's hand, he ex- 
pressed in no uncertain terms his sympathy, and even 
apologized for having approached him. He said no more 


about the infuriated wife, and Lincoln afterward had no 
better friend in Springfield. 

Mr. Lincoln never had a confidant, and therefore never 
unbosomed himself to others. He never spoke of his trials 
to me or, so far as I knew, to any of his friends. It was 
a great burden to carry, but he bore it sadly enough and 
without a murmur. I could always realize when he was 
in distress, without being told. He was not exactly an 
early riser, that is, he never usually appeared at the office 
till about nine o'clock in the morning. I usually preceded 
him an hour. Sometimes, however, he would come down 
as early as seven o'clock — in fact, on one occasion I re- 
member he came down before daylight. If, on arriving 
at the office, I found him in, I knew instantly that a breeze 
had sprung up over the domestic sea, and that the waters 
were troubled. He would either be lying on the lounge 
looking skyward, or doubled up in a chair with his feet 
resting on the sill of a back window. He would not look 
up on my entering, and only answered my "Good morning" 
with a grunt. I at once busied myself with pen and paper, 
or ran through the leaves of some book ; but the evidence 
of his melancholy and distress was so plain, and his silence 
so significant, that I would grow restless myself, and 
finding some excuse to go to the courthouse or elsewhere, 
would leave the room. 

The door of the office opening into a narrow hallway 
was half glass, with a curtain on it working on brass rings 
strung on wire. As I passed out on these occasions I 
would draw the curtain across the glass, and before I 
reached the bottom of the stairs I could hear the key turn 
in the lock, and Lincoln was alone in his gloom. An hour 
in the clerk's office at the courthouse, an hour longer in 
a neighboring store having passed, I would return. By 
that time either a client had dropped in and Lincoln was 
propounding the law, or else the cloud of despondency had 
passed away, and he was busy in the recital of an Indiana 
story to whistle off the recollections of the morning's 
gloom. Noon having arrived I would depart homeward 
for my dinner. Returning within an hour, I would find 


him still in the office, although his house stood but a few 
squares away, — lunching on a slice of cheese and a handful 
of crackers which, in my absence, he had brought up from 
a store below. Separating for the day at five or six o'clock 
in the evening, I would still leave him behind, either sit- 
ting on a box at the foot of the stairway, entertaining a few 
loungers, or killing time in the same way on the court- 
house steps. A light in the office after dark attested his 
presence there till late along in the night, when, after all 
the world had gone to sleep, the tall form of the man 
destined to be the nation's President could have been seen 
strolling along in the shadows of trees and buildings, and 
quietly slipping in through the door of a modest frame 
house, which it pleased the world, in a conventional way, 
to call his home. 

Some persons may insist that this picture is too highly 
colored. If so, I can only answer, they do not know the 
facts. The majority of those who have a personal knowl- 
edge of them are persistent in their silence. If their lips 
could be opened and all could be known, my conclusions 
and statements, to say the least of them, would be found to 
be fair, reasonable, and true. A few words more as to 
Lincoln's domestic history, and I pass to a different phase 
of his life. One of his warmest and closest friends, who 
still survives, maintains the theory that, after all, Lincoln's 
political ascendency and final elevation to the Presidency 
were due more to the influence of his wife than to any 
other person or cause. "The fact," insists this friend, 
"that Mary Todd, by her turbulent nature and unfortunate 
manner, prevented her husband from becoming a domestic 
man, operated largely in his favor; for he was thereby 
kept out in the world of business and politics. Instead of 
spending his evenings at home, reading the papers and 
warming his toes at his own fireside, he was constantly out 
with the common people, was mingling with the poli- 
ticians, discussing public questions with the farmers 
who thronged the offices in the courthouse and state house, 
and exchanging views with the loungers who surrounded 
the stove of winter evenings in the village store. The re- 


suit of this continuous contact with the world was, that he 
was more thoroughly known than any other man in his 
community. His wife, therefore, was one of the unin- 
tentional means of his promotion. If, on the other hand, he 
had married some less ambitious but more domestic 
woman, some honest farmer's quiet daughter, — one who 
would have looked up to and worshipped him because he 
uplifted her, — the result might have been different. For, 
although it doubtless would have been her pride to see that 
he had clean clothes whenever he needed them ; that his 
slippers were always in their place ; that he was warmly 
clad and had plenty to eat ; and, although the privilege of 
ministering to his every wish and whim might have been 
to her a pleasure rather than a duty ; yet I fear he would 
have been buried in the pleasures of a loving home, and the 
country would never have had Abraham Lincoln for its 

In her domestic troubles I have always sympathized 
with Mrs. Lincoln. The world does not know what she 
bore, or how ill-adapted she was to bear it. Her fearless, 
witty, and austere nature shrank instinctively from asso- 
ciation with the calm, imperturbable, and simple ways of 
her thoughtful and absent-minded husbanoV^Besides, who 
knows but she may have acted out in her. conduct toward 
her husband the laws of human revenge? The picture 
of that eventful evening in 1841, when 'she stood at the 
Edwards mansion clad in her bridal robes, the feast pre- 
pared and the guests gathered, and when the bridegroom 
came not, may have been constantly before her, and 
prompted her to a course of action which kept in the back- 
ground the better elements of her nature. In marrying 
Lincoln she did not look so far into the future as Mary 
Owens, who declined his proposal because "he was defi- 
cient in those little links which make up the chain of 
woman's happiness." B 

Mrs. Lincoln died at the residence of her sister Mrs. 
Ninian W. Edwards, in Springfield, July 16, 1882. Dr. 
Thomas W. Dresser, her physician during her last illness, 

B See Editor's Preface, p. xliv. 


says this of her: "In the late years of her life certain 
mental peculiarities were developed which finally cul- 
minated in a slight apoplexy, producing paralysis, of which 
she died. Among the peculiarities alluded to, one of the 
most singular was the habit she had during the last year 
or so of her life of immuring herself in a perfectly dark 
room and, for light, using a small candle-light, even when 
the sun was shining bright out-of-doors. No urging would 
induce her to go out into the fresh air. Another peculi- 
arity was the accumulation of large quantities of silks and 
dress goods in trunks and by the cart-load, which she never 
used and which accumulated until it was really f eared that 
the floor of the store-room would give way. VShe was 
bright and sparkling in conversation, and her memory re- 
mained singularly good up to the very close of her life. 
Her face was animated and pleasing; and to me she was 
always an interesting woman; and while the whole world 
was finding fault with her temper and disposition, it was 
clear to me that the trouble was really a cerebral disease." 6 

By reason of his practical turn of mind Mr. Lincoln 
never speculated any more in the scientific and philosophi- 
cal than he did in the financial world. He never undertook 
to fathom the intricacies of psychology and metaphysics. 
Investigation into first causes, abstruse mental phenomena, 
the science of being, he brushed aside as trash — mere 
scientific absurdities. He discovered through experience 
that his mind, like the minds of other men, had its limita- 
tions, and hence he economized his forces and his time by 
applying his powers in the field of the practical. Scien- 
tifically regarded he was a realist as opposed to an idealist, 
a sensationist as opposed to an intuitionist, a materialist 
as opposed to a spiritualist. 

In the words of Joseph Gillespie, "He was contemplative 
rather than speculative. He wanted something solid to rest 
upon, and hence his bias for mathematics and the physical 
sciences. He bestowed more attention on them than upon 
metaphysical speculations. I have heard him descant upon 
the problem whether a ball discharged from a gun in a 

6 Original footnote. 


horizontal position would be longer in reaching the ground 
than one dropped at the instant of discharge from the 
muzzle. He said it always appeared to him that they would 
both reach the ground at the same time, even before he had 
read the philosophical explanation." 7 

There was more or less superstition in his nature, and, 
although he may not have believed implicity in the signs of 
his many dreams, he was constantly endeavoring to unravel 
them. His mind was readily impressed with some of the 
most absurd superstitions. His visit to the Voodoo for- 
tune-teller in New Orleans in 1831 ; his faith in the virtues 
of the mad-stone, when he took his son Robert to Terre 
Haute, Indiana, to be cured of the bite of a rabid dog ; and 
the strange double image of himself which he told his 
secretary, John Hay, he saw reflected in a mirror just after 
his election in 1860, strongly attest his inclination to super- 
stition. He held most firmly to the doctrine of fatalism all 
his life. His wife, after his death, told me what I already 
knew, that "his only philosophy was, what is to be will be, 
and no prayers of ours can reverse the decree." He al- 
ways contended that he was doomed to a sad fate, and he 
repeatedly said to me when we were alone in our office : 
"I am sure I shall meet with some terrible end." In proof 
of his strong leaning towards fatalism he once quoted the 
case of Brutus and Caesar, arguing that the former was 
forced by laws and conditions over which he had no 
control to kill the latter, and, vice versa, that the latter 
was specially created to be disposed of by the former. This 
superstitious view of life ran through his being like the 
thin blue vein through the whitest marble, giving the eye 
rest from the weariness of continued unvarying color. 8 

In 1856 I purchased in New York a life of Edmund 
Burke. I have forgotten now who the author was, but 1 
remember I read it through in a short time. One morning 


8 In a footnote in the original edition Herndon said that he 
had heard Lincoln frequently quote the couplet, 

"There's a divinity that shapes our ends, 
Rough-hew them as we will." 

u d 


Lincoln came into the office and, seeing the book in my 
hands, inquired what I was reading. I told him, at the 
same time observing that it was an excellent work and 
handing the book over to him. Taking it in his hand he 
threw himself down on the office sofa and hastily ran over 
its pages, reading a little here and there. At last he closed 
and threw it on the table with the exclamation, "No, I've 
read enough of it. It's like all the others. Biographies 
as generally written are not only misleading, but false. 
The author of this life of Burke makes a wonderful hero 
out of his subject. He magnifies his perfections — if he 
had any — and suppresses his imperfections. He is so faith- 
ful in his zeal and so lavish in praise of his every act that 
one is almost driven to believe that Burke never made a 
mistake or a failure in his life." He lapsed into a brown 
study, but presently broke out again, "Billy, I've wondered 
why book-publishers and merchants don't have blank biog- 
raphies on their shelves, always ready for an emergency; 
so that, if a man happens to die, his heirs or his friends, 
if they wish to perpetuate his memory, can purchase one 
already written, but with blanks. These blanks they can 
at their pleasure fill up with rosy sentences full of high- 
sounding praise. In most instances they commemorate a 
lie, and cheat posterity out of the truth. History," he con- 
cluded, "is not history unless it is the truth." This em- 
phatic avowal of sentiment from Mr. Lincoln not only fixes 
his estimate of ordinary biography, but is my vindication in 
advance if assailed for telling the truth. 9 

For many years I subscribed for and kept on our office 
table the Westminster and Edinburgh Review and a num- 
ber of other English periodicals. Besides them I pur- 
chased the works of Spencer, Darwin, and the utterances 
of other English scientists, all of which I devoured with 
great relish. I endeavored, but had little success in induc- 
ing Lincoln to read them. Occasionally he would snatch 
one up and peruse it for a little while, but he soon threw it 
down with the suggestion that it was entirely too heavy for 
an ordinary mind to digest. A gentleman in Springfield 
9 Original footnote. 


gave him a book called, I believe, "Vestiges of Creation," 
which interested him so much that he read it through. The 
volume was published in Edinburgh, and undertook to 
demonstrate the doctrine of development or evolution. 
The treatise interested him greatly, and he was deeply im- 
pressed with the notion of the so-called "universal law" — 
evolution ; he did not extend greatly his researches, but by 
continued thinking in a single channel seemed to grow into 
a warm advocate of the new doctrine. Beyond what I have 
stated he made no further investigation into the realm of 
philosophy. "There are no accidents," he said one day, 
"in my philosophy. Every effect must have its cause. 
The past is the cause of the present, and the present will 
be the cause of the future. All these are links in the end- 
less chain stretching from the finite to the infinite." From 
what has been said it would follow logically that he did not 
believe, except in a very restricted sense, in the freedom 
of the will. We often argued the question, I taking the 
opposite view ; he changed the expression, calling it the 
freedom of the mind, and insisted that man always acted 
from a motive. I once contended that man was free and 
could act without a motive. He smiled at my philosophy, 
and answered that it was impossible, because the motive 
was born before the man. 

The foregoing thoughts are prefatory to the much- 
mooted question of Mr. Lincoln's religious belief. For 
what I have heretofore said on this subject, both in public 
lectures and in letters which have frequently found their 
way into the newspapers, I have been freely and sometimes 
bitterly assailed, but I do not intend now to reopen the 
discussion or to answer the many persons who have risen 
up and asked to measure swords with me. I merely pur- 
pose to state the bare facts, expressing no opinion of my 
own, and allowing each and every one to put his or her 
construction on them. 

Inasmuch as he was so often a candidate for public of- 
fice Mr. Lincoln said as little about his religious opinions 
as possible, especially if he failed to coincide with the 
orthodox world. In illustration of his religious code I 


once heard him say that it was like that of an old man 
named Glenn, in Indiana, whom he heard speak at a 
church meeting, and who said : "When I do good I feel 
good, when I do bad I feel bad, and that's my religion." 
In 1834, while still living in New Salem and before he 
became a lawyer, he was surrounded by a class of people 
exceedingly liberal in matters of religion. Volney's 
Ruins and Payne's Age of Reason passed from hand 
to hand, and furnished food for the evening's discussion 
in the tavern and village store. Lincoln read both these 
books and thus assimilated them into his own being. He 
prepared an extended essay — called by many, a book — in 
which he made an argument against Christianity, striving 
to prove that the Bible was not inspired, and therefore 
not God's revelation, and that Jesus Christ was not the 
son of God. The manuscript containing these audacious 
and comprehensive propositions he intended to have pub- 
lished or given a wide circulation in some other way. He 
carried it to the store, where it was read and freely dis- 
cussed. His friend and employer, Samuel Hill, was among 
the listeners, and, seriously questioning the propriety of 
a promising young man like Lincoln fathering such un- 
popular notions, he snatched the manuscript from his 
hands and thrust it into the stove. The book went up in 
flames, and Lincoln's political future was secure. But 
his infidelity and his skeptical views were not diminished. 
He soon removed to Springfield, where he attracted con- 
siderable notice by his rank doctrine. Much of what he 
then said may properly be credited to the impetuosity and 
exuberance of youth. One of his closest friends, whose 
name is withheld, narrating scenes and reviewing discus- 
sions that in 1838 took place in the office of the county 
clerk, says: "Sometimes Lincoln bordered on atheism. 
He went far that way, and shocked me. I was then a 
young man, and believed what my good mother told me. 
. . . He would come into the clerk's office where I and 
some young men were writing and staying, and would 
bring the Bible with him ; would read a chapter and argue 
against it. . . . Lincoln was enthusiastic in his infidelity. 


As he grew older he grew more discreet ; didn't talk much 
before strangers about his religion; but to friends, close 
and bosom ones, he was always open and avowed, fair » 
and honest ; to strangers, he held them off from policy." 
John T. Stuart, who was Lincoln's first partner, substan- 
tially endorses the above. "He was an avowed and open 
infidel," declares Stuart, "and sometimes bordered on 
atheism; . . . went further against Christian beliefs and 
doctrines and principles than any man I ever heard ; he 
shocked me. I don't remember the exact line of his ar- 
gument ; suppose it was against the inherent defects, so- 
called, of the Bible, and on grounds of reason. Lincoln 
always denied that Jesus was the Christ of God — denied 
that Jesus was the son of God as understood and main- 
tained by the Christian Church." David Davis tells us 
this : "The idea that Lincoln talked to a stranger about 
his religion or religious views, or made such speeches and 
remarks about it as are published, is to me absurd. I 
knew the man so well ; he was the most reticent, secretive 
man I ever saw or expect to see. He had no faith, in the 
Christian sense of the term — had faith in laws, principles, 
causes and effects." Another man (William H. Hannah) 
testifies as follows : "Mr. Lincoln told me that he was a 
kind of immortalist; that he never could bring himself to 
believe in eternal punishment ; that man lived but a little 
while here ; and that if eternal punishment were man's 
doom, he should spend that little life in vigilant and cease- 
less preparation by never-ending prayer." Another inti- 
mate friend (I. W. Keys) furnishes this: "In my inter- 
course with Mr. Lincoln I learned that he believed in a 
Creator of all things, who had neither beginning nor end, 
possessing all power and wisdom, established a principle in 
obedience to which worlds move and are upheld, and ani- 
mal and vegetable life come into existence. A reason he 
gave for his belief was that in view of the order and har- 
mony of all nature which we behold, it would have been 
more miraculous to have come about by chance than to have 
been created and arranged by some great thinking power. 
As to the Christian theory that Christ is God or equal to 


the Creator, he said that it had better be taken for granted ; 
for by the test of reason we might become infidels on that 
subject, for evidence of Christ's divinity came to us in a 
somewhat doubtful shape; but that the system of Chris- 
tianity was an ingenious one at least, and perhaps was cal- 
culated to do good." Jesse W. Fell, to whom Lincoln first 
confided the details of his biography, furnishes a more elab- 
orate account of the latter's religious views than anyone 
else. In a statement made September 22, 1870, Fell says: 
"If there were any traits of character that stood out in 
bold relief in the person of Mr. Lincoln they were those 
of truth and candor. He was utterly incapable of insin- 
cerity or professing views on this or any other subject he 
did not entertain. Knowing such to be his true character, 
that insincerity, much more duplicity, were traits wholly 
foreign to his nature, many of his old friends were not a 
little surprised at finding in some of the biographies of 
this great man statements concerning his religious opinions 
so utterly at variance with his known sentiments. True, 
he may have changed or modified these sentiments 10 after 
his removal from among us, though this is hardly recon- 
cilable with the history of the man, and his entire devotion 
to public matters during his four years' residence at the 
national capital. It is possible, however, that this may be 
the proper solution of this conflict of opinions ; or it may 
be that, with no intention on the part of any one to mis- 
lead the public mind, those who have represented him as 
believing in the popular theological views of the times may 
10 In the original edition Herndon printed the following letter 
as a footnote: 

"Executive Mansion, Washington, May 27, 1865. 
"Friend Herndon : 

"Mr. Lincoln did not to my knowledge in any way change his 
religious ideas, opinions, or beliefs from the time he left Spring- 
field to the day of his death. I do not know just what they 
were, never having heard him explain them in detail ; but I 
am very sure he gave no outward indication of his mind having 
undergone any change in that regard while here. 
"Yours truly, 

"J no. G. Nicolay." 


have misapprehended him, as experience shows to be 
quite common where no special effort has been made to 
attain critical accuracy on a subject of this nature. This 
is the more probable from the well-known fact, that Mr. 
Lincoln seldom communicated to any one his views on this 
subject; but be this as it may, I have no hesitation what- 
ever in saying that whilst he held many opinions in com- 
mon with the great mass of Christian believers, he did 
not believe in what are regarded as the orthodox or evan- 
gelical views of Christianity. 

" "On the innate depravity of man, the character and of- 
fice of the great Head of the Church, the atonement, the 
infallibility of the written revelation, the performance of 
miracles, the nature and design of present and future re- 
wards and punishments (as they are popularly called), 
and many other subjects he held opinions utterly at va- 
riance with what are usually taught in the Church. I 
should say that his expressed views on these and kindred 
topics were such as, in the estimation of most believers, 
would place him outside the Christian pale. Yet, to my 
mind, such was not the true position, since his principles 
and practices and the spirit of his whole life were of the 
very kind we universally agree to call Christian ; and I 
think this conclusion is in no wise affected by the circum- 
stance that he never attached himself to any religious 
society whatever. 

"His religious views were eminently practical, and are 
summed up, as I think, in. these two propositions : the 
Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man. He 
fully believed in a superintending and overruling Provi- 
dence that guides and controls the operations of the world, 
but maintained that law and order, and not their violation 
or suspension, are the appointed means by which this 
Providence is exercised. 11 

31 "A convention of preachers held, I think, at Philadelphia," 
wrote John D. Defrees in a letter to Herndon, December 4, 1866, 
"passed a resolution asking him to recommend to Congress an 
amendment to the Constitution directly recognizing the existence of 
God. The first draft of his message prepared after this resolution 


"I will not attempt any specification of either his belief 
or disbelief on various religious topics, as derived from 
the conversations with him at different times during a con- 
siderable period ; but as conveying a general view of his 
religious or theological opinions, will state the following 
facts. Some eight or ten years prior to his death, in con- 
versing with him upon this subject, the writer took oc- 
casion to refer, in terms of approbation, to the sermons 
and writings generally of Dr. W. E. Channing; and, find- 
ing he was considerably interested in the statement I made 
of the opinions held by that author, I proposed to pre- 
sent him (Lincoln) a copy of Channing's entire works, 
which I soon after did. Subsequently the contents of 
these volumes, together with the writings of Theodore 
Parker, furnished him, as he informed me, by his friend 
and law partner, William H. Herndon, became naturally 
the topics of conversation with us ; and, though far from 
believing there was an entire harmony of views on his 
part with either of those authors, yet they were generally 
much admired and approved by him. 

"No religious views with him seemed to find any favor 
except of the practical and rationalistic order ; and if, from 
my recollections on this subject, I was called upon to des- 
ignate an author whose views most nearly represented 
Mr. Lincoln's on this subject, I would say that author 
was Theodore Parker." 

, The last witness to testify before this case is submitted 
to the reader is no less a person that Mrs. Lincoln herself. 
In a statement made at a time and under circumstances 
detailed in a subsequent chapter she said this : "Mr. Lin- 
coln had no faith and no hope in the usual acceptation of 
those words. He never joined a Church; but still, as I 
believe, he was a religious man by nature. He first 
seemed to think about the subject when our boy Willie 
died, and then more than ever about the time he went 

was sent him did contain a paragraph calling the attention of 
Congress to the subject. When I assisted him in reading the 
proof he struck it out, remarking that he had not made up his 
mind as to its propriety." 


to Gettysburg ; but it was a kind of poetry in his nature, 
and he was never a technical Christian." 

No man had a stronger or firmer faith in Providence — 
God — than Mr. Lincoln, but the continued use by him late 
in life of the word God must not be interpreted to mean 
that he believed in a personal God. In 1854 he asked me 
to erase the word God from a speech which I had written 
and read to him for criticism because my language indi- 
cated a personal God, whereas he insisted no such person- 
ality ever existed. 

My own testimony, however, in regard to Mr. Lincoln's 
religious views may perhaps invite discussion. The world 
has always insisted on making an orthodox Christian of 
him, and to analyze his sayings or sound his beliefs is but 
to break the idol. It only remains to say that, whether 
orthodox or not, he believed in God and immortality ; and 
even if he questioned the existence of future eternal pun- 
ishment he hoped to find a rest from trouble and a heaven 
beyond the grave. If at any time in his life he was skep- 
tical of the divine origin of the Bible he ought not 
for that reason to be condemned ; for he accepted the prac- 
tical precepts of that great book as binding alike upon his 
head and his conscience. The benevolence of his impulses, 
the seriousness of his convictions, and the nobility of his 
character are evidences unimpeachable that his soul was 
ever filled with the exalted purity and sublime faith of 
natural religion. 



disaster to Lincoln's finances than to his political pros- 
pects. The loss of over six months from his business, and 
the expenses of the canvass, made a severe drain on his per- 
sonal income. He was anxious to get back to the law 
once more and earn a little ready money. A letter written 
about this time to his friend Norman B. Judd, Chairman 
of the Republican State Committee, will serve to throw 
some light on the situation he found himself in. "I have 
been on expenses so long, without earning anything," he 
says, "that I am absolutely without money now for even 
household expenses. Still, if you can put in $250 for me 
towards discharging the debt of the committee, I will 
allow it when you and I settle the private matter between 
us. This, with what I have already paid, with an out- 
standing note of mine, will exceed my subscription of 
$500. This, too, is exclusive of my ordinary expenses 
during the campaign, all of which, being added to my loss 
of time and business, bears pretty heavily upon one no 
better off than I am. But as I had the post of honor, it 
is not for me to be over-nice." At the time this letter 
was written his property consisted of the house and lot 
on which he lived, a few law books and some household 
furniture. He owned a small tract of land in Iowa which 
yielded him nothing, and the annual income from his law 
practice did not exceed $3,000; yet the party's committee 
in Chicago were dunning their late standard-bearer, who, 
besides the chagrin of his defeat, his own expenses, and 
the sacrifice of his time, was asked to aid in meeting the 
general expenses of the campaign. At this day one is 


a little surprised that some of the generous and wealthy 
members of the party in Chicago or elsewhere did not 
come forward and volunteer their aid. But they did not, 
and whether Lincoln felt in his heart the injustice of this 
treatment or not, he went straight ahead in his own path 
and said nothing about it. 1 

Political business being off his hands, he now conceived 
the idea of entering the lecture field. He began prepara- 
tions in the usual way by noting down ideas on stray 
pieces of paper, which found a lodgment inside his hat, 
and finally brought forth in connected form a lecture on 
"Inventions." He recounted the wonderful improvements 
in machinery, the arts, and sciences. Now and then he 
indulged in a humorous paragraph, and witticisms were 
freely sprinkled throughout the lecture. During the win- 
ter he delivered it at several towns in the central part of 
the State, but it was so commonplace, and met with such 
indifferent success, that he soon dropped it altogether. 
The effort met with the disapproval of his friends, and 
he himself was filled with disgust. If his address in 1852, 
over the death of Clay, proved that he was no eulogist, 
then this last effort demonstrated that he was no lecturer, 
Invitations to deliver the lecture — prompted no doubt by 
the advertisement given him in the contest with Douglas — 
came in very freely ; but beyond the three attempts named, 
he declined them all. "Press of business in the courts" 
afforded him a convenient excuse, and he retired from 
the field. On March 28, 1859 he wrote W. M. Morris: 
"Your kind note inviting me to deliver a lecture at Gales- 
burg is received. I regret to say I cannot do so now; 
I must stick to the courts awhile. I read a sort of lec- 
ture to three different audiences during the last month 
and this; but I did so under circumstances which made it 
a waste of no time whatever." 

1 At the time Lincoln wrote Judd he held the notes of eight 
different persons for an amount totalling $3,000. He owned a 
lot in the town of Lincoln, forty acres in Iowa, and his own 
home, worth not less than $3,000. His personal account at the 
Springfield Marine and Fire Insurance Company showed a balance 
of $360.00. See Bulletin A T o. 16, the Abraham Lincoln Association. 


"As we were going to Danville court," wrote Henry 
C. Whitney, August 27, 1867, "I read to Lincoln a lecture 
by Bancroft on the wonderful progress of man, delivered 
in the preceding November. Sometime later he told us — 
Swett and me — that he had been thinking much on the 
subject and believed he would write a lecture on 'Man and 
His Progress/ Afterwards I read in a paper that he had 
come to either Bloomington or Clinton to lecture and 
no one turned out. The paper added, 'That doesn't look 
much like his being President.' I once joked him about 
it ; he said good-naturedly, 'Don't ; that plagues me.' ' 

During the fall of 1859 invitations to take part in the 
canvass came from over half-a-dozen States where elec- 
tions were to be held. Douglas, fresh from the Senate, 
had gone to Ohio, and thither in September Lincoln, in 
response to the demands of party friends everywhere, fol- 
lowed. He delivered telling and impressive speeches at 
Cincinnati 3 and Columbus, following Douglas at both 

2 So far as it is possible to discover now, Lincoln's first lecture 
was delivered in Bloomington on April 6, 1858. The local editor 
said of it : "The first half of the lecture displayed great research 
and a careful study of the Bible. . . . The latter half was brimful 
of original thought." On February 11, 1859, he lectured in Jack- 
sonville, and on the 21st of the same month in Springfield. During 
March he spoke again, but the time and place are unknown. It 
was on April 8, 1859, when he was scheduled to speak at Bloom- 
ington, that so few attended that the engagement was cancelled. 
On April 26, 1859, the lecture was delivered for the last time at 
Cook's Hall, Springfield. 

Herndon used Whitney's reminiscence and Lincoln's letter to 
Morris as footnotes. 

3 In a footnote in the original edition Herndon printed the 
following extract from an article by William M. Dickson in 
Harper's Magazine for June, 1884. Dickson, who lived in Cin- 
cinnati, had married a cousin of Mrs. Lincoln, and almost certainly 
entertained Lincoln at the time of the well-known Reaper trial. 
"He returned to the city two years after with a fame as wide 
as the continent, with the laurels of the Douglas contest on his 
brow, and the Presidency in his grasp. He returned greeted 
with the thunder ' of cannon, the strains of martial music, and 
the joyous plaudits of thousands of citizens thronging the streets. 
He addressed a vast concourse on Fifth Street Market ; was 
entertained in princely style at the Burnet House, and there 


places. Douglas had written a long and carefully pre- 
pared article on "Popular Sovereignty in the Territories," 
which appeared for the first time in the September (1859) 
number of Harper's Magazine. It went back some dis- 
tance into the history of the government, recounting the 
proceedings of the earliest Congresses, and sought to mark 
out more clearly than had heretofore been done "the di- 
viding line between Federal and Local authority." In a 
speech at Columbus, O., Lincoln answered the "copy-right 
essay" categorically. After alluding to the difference of 
position between himself and Judge Douglas on the doc- 
trine of Popular Sovereignty, he said : "Judge Douglas has 
had a good deal of trouble with Popular Sovereignty. His 
explanations, explanatory of explanations explained, are 
interminable. The most lengthy and, as I suppose, the 
most maturely considered of his long series of explana- 
tions is his great essay in Harper's Magazine/' He made 
such a favorable impression among his Ohio friends that, 
after a glorious Republican victory, the State committee 

received with courtesy the foremost citizens come to greet this 
rising star. With high hope and happy heart he left Cincinnati 
after a three days' sojourn. But a perverse fortune attended him 
and Cincinnati in their intercourse. Nine months after Mr. Lin- 
coln left us, after he had been nominated for the Presidency, 
when he was tranquilly waiting in his cottage home at Spring- 
field the verdict of the people, his last visit to Cincinnati and 
the good things he had had at the Burnet House were rudely 
brought to his memory by a bill presented to him from its pro- 
prietors. Before leaving the hotel he had applied to the clerk 
for his bill ; was told that it was paid, or words to that effect. 
This the committee had directed, but afterwards neglected its 
payment. The proprietors shrewdly surmised that a letter to 
the nominee for the Presidency would bring the money. The 
only significance in this incident is in the letter it brought from 
Mr. Lincoln, revealing his indignation at the seeming imputation 
against his honor, and his greater indignation at one item of the 
bill. 'As to wines, liquors, and cigars, we had none, absolutely 
none. These last may have been in Room 15 by order of com- 
mittee, but I do not recollect them at all ! ' " This letter, which 
was written to Dickson, may be found in Angle, New Letters and 
Papers of Lincoln, pp. 247-48. 

The paragraph to which this note is appended contains two 
passages which were originally footnotes. 


asked the privilege of publishing his speeches, along with 
those of Douglas, to be used and distributed as a campaign 
document. This request he especially appreciated, because 
after some effort he had failed to induce any publisher 
in Springfield to undertake the enterprise, thus proving 
anew that "a prophet is not without honor, save in his 
own country." A gentleman is still living, who at the time 
of the debate between Lincoln and Douglas, was a book 
publisher in Springfield. Lincoln had collected newspaper 
slips of all the speeches made during the debate, and pro- 
posed to him their publication in book form ; but the man 
declined, fearing there would be no demand for such a 
book. Subsequently, when the speeches were gotten out 
in book form in Ohio, Mr. Lincoln procured a copy and 
gave it to his Springfield friend, writing on the fly-leaf, 
"Compliments of A. Lincoln." 

In December he [Lincoln] visited Kansas, speaking at 
Atchison, Troy, Leavenworth, and other towns near the 
border. His speeches there served to extend his reputa- 
tion still further westward. Though his arguments were 
repetitions of the doctrine laid down in the contest with 
Douglas, yet they were new to the majority of his Kansas 
hearers and were enthusiastically approved. By the close 
of the year he was back again in the dingy law office in 

How Mr. Lincoln stood on the questions of the hour, 
after his defeat by Douglas, is clearly shown in a letter 
written on the 14th of May, 1859, to a friend in Kansas 
(Mark W. Delahay), who had forwarded him an invi- 
tation to attend a Republican convention there. "You will 
probably adopt resolutions," he writes, " in the nature of 
a platform. I think the only danger will be the tempta- 
tion to lower the Republican standard in order to gather 
recruits. In my judgment such a step would be a serious 
mistake, and open a gap through which more would pass 
out than pass in. And this would be the same whether the 
letting down should be in deference to Douglasism or to 
the Southern opposition element ; either would surrender 
the object of the Republican organization — the preventing 


of the spread and nationalization of slavery. This object 
surrendered, the organization would go to pieces. I do 
not mean by this that no Southern man must be placed 
upon our national ticket for 1860. There are many men 
in the slave states for any one of whom I could cheerfully 
vote, to be either President or Vice-President, provided 
he would enable me to do so with safety to the Republi- 
can cause, without lowering the Republican standard. This 
is the indispensable condition of a union with us ; it is idle 
to talk of any other. Any other would be as fruitless to 
the South as distasteful to the North, the whole ending in 
common defeat. Let a union be attempted on the basis 
of ignoring the slavery question, and magnifying other 
questions which the people are just now caring about, and 
it will result in gaining no single electoral vote in the 
South, and losing every one in the North." 4 

The opening of the year 1860 found Mr. Lincoln's name 
freely mentioned in connection with the Republican nom- 
ination for the Presidency. To be classed with Seward, 
Chase, McLean, and other celebrities was enough to stim- 
ulate any Illinois lawyer's pride; but in Mr. Lincoln's 
case, if it had any such effect, he was most artful in con- 
cealing it. Now and then some ardent friend, an editor, 
for example, would run his name up to the mast-head, 
but in all cases he discouraged the attempt. "In regard 
to the matter you spoke of," he answered one man 
(Thomas J. Pickett) who proposed his name, "I beg that 
you will not give it further mention. Seriously, I do 
not think I am fit for the Presidency." 

The first effort in his behalf as a Presidential aspirant 
was the action taken by his friends at a meeting held in the 
State House early in 1860, in the rooms of O. M. Hatch, 
then Secretary of State. Besides Hatch there were pres- 
ent Norman B. Judd, chairman of the Republican State 
Committee, Ebenezer Peck, Jackson Grimshaw, and others 
of equal prominence in the party. "We all expressed a per- 
sonal preference for Mr. Lincoln," relates one who was a 
participant in the meeting (Jackson Grimshaw), "as the 

4 Original footnote. 


Illinois candidate for the Presidency, and asked him if his 
name might be used at once in connection with the nomina- 
tion and election. With his characteristic modesty he 
doubted whether he could get the nomination even if he 
wished it, and asked until the next morning to answer us 
whether his name might announced. Late the next day 
he authorized us, if we thought proper to do so, to place 
him in the field." To the question from Mr. Grimshaw 
whether, if the nomination for President could not be ob- 
tained, he would accept the post of Vice-President, he an- 
swered that he would not ; that his name having been used 
for the office of President, he would not permit it to be 
used for any other office, however honorable it might be. 
This meeting was preliminary to the Decatur convention, 
and was also the first concerted action in his behalf on the 
part of his friends. 

In the preceding October he came rushing into the office 
one morning, with the letter from New York City, inviting 
•him to deliver a lecture there, and asked my advice and 
that of other friends as to the subject and character of his 
address. We all recommended a speech on the political 
situation. Remembering his poor success as a lecturer 
himself, he adopted our suggestions. He accepted the in- 
vitation of the New York committee, at the same time 
notifying them that his speech would deal entirely with 
political questions, and fixing a day late in February as 
the most convenient time. Meanwhile he spent the inter- 
vening time in careful preparation. He searched through 
the dusty volumes of congressional proceedings in the 
State library, and dug deeply into political history. He 
was painstaking and thorough in the study of his subject, 
but when at last he left for New York we had many mis- 
givings — and he not a few himself^of his sucess in the 
great metropolis. What effect the unpretentious Western 
lawyer would have on the wealthy and fashionable society 
of the great city could only be conjectured. A description 
of the meeting at Cooper Institute, a list of the names of 
the prominent men and women present, or an account of 
Lincoln in the delivery of the address would be needless 


repetitions of well-known histo ry. \ It only remains to say 
that his speech was devoid of all rhetorical imagery, with 
a marked suppression of the pyrotechnics of stump ora- 
tory. It was constructed with a view to accuracy of state- 
ment, simplicity of language, and unity of thought. In 
some respects like a lawyer's brief, it was logical, temper- 
ate in tone, powerful — irresistibly driving conviction home 
tc men's reasons and their souls. No former effort in 
the line of speech-making had cost Lincoln so much time 
and thought as this one.,. It is said by one of his biogra- 
phers, that those afterwards engaged in getting out the 
speech as a campaign document were three weeks in veri- 
fying the statements and finding the historical records re- 
ferred to and consulted by him. This is probably a little 
over-stated as to time, but unquestionably the work of 
verification and reference was in any event a very labored 
and extended one. (Mr. Lincoln obtained most of the 
facts of his Cooper Institute speech from Eliott's "De- 
bates on the Federal Constitution." There were six vol- 
umes, which he gave to me when he went to Washington 
in 1861.) The day following the Cooper Institute meet- 
ing, the leading New York dailies published the speech 
in full, and made favorable editorial mention of it and of 
the speaker as well. It was plain now that Lincoln had 
captured the metropolis. From New York he traveled to 
New England to visit his son Robert, who was attending 
college. In answer to the many calls and invitations which 
showered on him, he spoke at various places in Connecti- 
cut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. In all these places 
he not only left deep impressions of his ability, but he 
convinced New England of his intense earnestness in the 
great cause. The newspapers treated him with no little 
consideration. One paper (the Manchester Mirror) char- 
acterized his speech as one of "great fairness," delivered 
with "great apparent candor and wonderful interest. For 
the first half hour his opponents would agree with every 
word he uttered ; and from that point he would lead them 
off little by little until it seemed as if he had got them all 
into his fold. He is far from prepossessing in personal 


appearance, and his voice is disagreeable ; and yet he wins 
your attention from the start. He indulges in no flowers 
of rhetoric, no eloquent passages. . . . He displays more 
shrewdness, more knowledge of the masses of mankind 
than any public speaker we have heard since Long Jim 
Wilson left for California." 

On his return home Lincoln told me that for once in 
his life he was greatly abashed over his personal appear- 
ance. The new suit of clothes which he donned on his 
arrival in New York were ill-fitting garments, and showed 
the creases made while packed in the valise; and for a 
long time after he began his speech and before he became 
"warmed up" he imagined that the audience noticed the 
contrast between his Western clothes and the neat-fitting 
suits of Mr. Bryant and others who sat on the platform. 
The collar of his coat on the right side had an unpleasant 
way of flying up whenever he raised his arm to gesticu- 
late. He imagined the audience noticed that also. After 
the meeting closed, the newspaper reporters called for 
slips of his speech. This amused him, because he had no 
idea what slips were, and besides, didn't suppose the news- 
papers cared to print his speech verbatim. 5 

Lincoln's return to Springfield after his dazzling success 
in the East was the signal for earnest congratulations on 
the part of his friends. Seward was the great man of the 
day, but Lincoln had demonstrated to the satisfaction of 
his friends that he was tall enough and strong enough to 
measure swords with the Auburn statesman. r His triumph 
in New York and New England had shown that the idea of 
a house divided against itself induced as strong co-opera- 
tion and hearty support in prevention of a great wrong in 
the East as the famous "irrepressible conflict" attracted 
warriors to Seward's standard in the Mississippi valley. 
It was apparent now to Lincoln that the Presidential nom- 
ination was within his reach. He began gradually to lose 
his interest in the law and to trim his political sails at the 
same time. His recent success had stimulated his self- 
confidence to unwonted proportions. He wrote to influ- 

5 Original footnote. 


ential party workers everywhere. I know the idea prevails 
that Lincoln sat still in his chair in Springfield, and that 
one of those unlooked-for-tides in human affairs came 
along and cast the nomination into his lap; but any man 
who has had experience in such things knows that great 
political prizes are not obtained in that way. The truth is, 
Lincoln was as vigilant as he was ambitious, and there is 
no denying the fact that he understood the situation per- 
fectly from the start. In the management of his own 
interests he was obliged to rely almost entirely on his own 
resources. He had no money with which to maintain a 
political bureau, and he lacked any kind of personal organi- 
zation whatever. Seward had all these things, and, behind 
them all, a brilliant record in the United States Senate with 
which to dazzle his followers. But with all his prestige 
and experience the latter was no more adroit and no more 
untiring in pursuit of his ambition than the man who had 
just delivered the Cooper Institute speech. A letter written 
by Lincoln about this time to a friend in Kansas serves 
to illustrate his methods, and measures the extent of his 
ambition. The letter is dated March 10, and is now in 
my possession. For obvious reasons I withhold the 
friend's name. 6 "As to your kind wishes for myself," 
writes Lincoln, "allow me to say I cannot enter the ring on 
the money basis — first, because in the main it is wrong; 
and secondly, I have not and cannot get the money. I say 
in the main the use of money is wrong ; but for certain ob- 
jects in a political contest the use of some is both right and 
indispensable. With me, as with yourself, this long struggle 
has been one of great pecuniary loss. I now distinctly say 
this: 'If you shall be appointed a delegate to Chicago I 
will furnish one hundred dollars to bear the expenses of 
the trip/ " There is enough in this letter to show that Lin- 
coln was not only determined in his political ambition, but 
intensely practical as well. His eye was constantly fast- 
ened on Seward, who had already freely exercised the 
rights of leadership in the party. All other competitors he 
dropped out of the problem. In the middle of April he 
6 It was Mark W. Delahay. 


again writes his Kansas friend : "Reaching home last night 
I found yours of the 7th\You know I was recently in New 
England. Some of the acquaintances I made while there 
write me since the election that the close vote in Connec- 
ticut and the quasi-defeat in Rhode Island are a drawback 
upon the prospects of Governor Seward; and Trumbull 
writes Dubois to the same effect. Do not mention this as 
coming from me. Both these States are safe enough in the 
fall." But, while Seward may have lost ground near his 
home, he was acquiring strength in the West. He had 
invaded the very territory Lincoln was intending to retain 
by virtue of his course in the contest with Douglas. Lin- 
coln's friend in Kansas, instead of securing that delegation 
for him, had suffered the Seward men to outgeneral him, 
and the prospects were by no means flattering. "I see by 
the dispatches," writes Lincoln, in a burst of surprise, 
"that, since you wrote, Kansas has appointed delegates and 
instructed for Seward. Don't stir them up to anger, but 
come along to the convention and I will do as I said about 
expenses." Whether the friend ever accepted Lincoln's 
generous offer I do not know, but it may not be without 
interest to state that within ten days after the latter's 
inauguration he appointed him to a Federal office with com- 
forable salary attached, and even asked for his preferences 
as to other contemplated appointments in his own State. 7 
"You will start for Kansas before I see you again" ; he 
wrote, "and when I saw you a moment this morning I 
forgot to ask you about some of the Kansas appointments, 
which I intended to do. If you care much about them you 

7 On May 12, 1860, Lincoln wrote Delahay the following letter : 
"My Dear Sir : 

"Yours informing me of your arrival in Chicago was duly 
received. Dubois, our A[uditor, goes] to Chicago to-day; and 
he will hand you $ [ ? . The] remainder will come before you 
leave the s[tate.] . . ." 

In April, 1861, Lincoln appointed Delahay Surveyor-General 
for Kansas and Nebraska, and in 1863, United States District 
Judge for Kansas. His conduct in the latter office was such 
that impeachment proceedings were instituted, whereupon he re- 
signed. Angle, New Letters and Papers of Lincoln, p. 243. 


can write, as I think I shall not make the appointments 
just yet." 

This case illustrates quite forcibly Lincoln's weakness in 
dealing with individuals. This man I know had written 
Lincoln, promising to bring the Kansas delegation to Chi- 
cago for him if he would only pay his expenses. Lincoln 
was weak enough to make the promise, and yet such was 
his faith in the man that he appointed him to an important 
judicial position and gave him great prominence in other 
ways. What President or candidate for President would 
dare do such a thing now ? 8 

In the rapid, stirring scenes that crowd upon each other 
from this time forward the individuality of Lincoln is 
easily lost sight of. He was so thoroughly interwoven in 
the issues before the people of Illinois that he had become 
a part of them. Among his colleagues at the bar he was 
no longer looked upon as the circuit-court lawyer of 
earlier days. To them it seemed as if the nation were about 
to lay its claim upon him. His tall form enlarged, until, 
to use a figurative expression, he could no longer pass 
through the door of our dingy office. Reference has al- 
ready been made to the envy of his rivals at the bar, and 
the jealousy of his political contemporaries. Very few 
indeed were free from the degrading passion ; but it made 
no difference in Lincoln's treatment of them. He was as 
generous and deferred to them as much as ever. The first 
public movement by the Illinois people in his interest was 
the action of the State convention, which met at Decatur 
on the 9th and 10th of May. It was at this convention 
that Lincoln's friend and cousin, John Hanks, brought in 
the two historic rails which both had made in the Sanga- 
mon bottom in 1830, and which served the double purpose 
of electrifying the Illinois people and kindling the fire of 
enthusiasm that was destined to sweep over the nation. In 
the words of an ardent Lincoln delegate, "These rails 
were to represent the issue in the coming contest between 
labor free and labor slave; between democracy and aris- 

8 This paragraph, and the quotation from Lincoln's letter which 
precedes it, were originally footnotes. 


tocracy. Little did I think/' continues our jubilant and 
effusive friend, "of the mighty consequences of this little 
incident; little did I think that the tall, and angular, and 
bony rail-splitter who stood in girlish diffidence bowing with 
awkward grace would fill the chair once filled by Washing- 
ton, and that his name would echo in chants of praise along 
the corridor of all coming time." A week later the hosts 
were gathered for the great convention in Chicago. David 
Davis had rented rooms in the Tremont House and opened 
up "Lincoln's headquarters." I was not a delegate, but 
belonged to the contingent which had Lincoln's interests 
in charge. Judge Logan was the Springfield delegate, and 
to him Lincoln had given a letter authorizing the with- 
drawal of his name whenever his friends deemed such 
action necessary or proper. Davis was the active man, and 
had the business management in charge. If any negotia- 
tions were made, he made them. The convention was held 
in a monster building called the Wigwam. No one who 
has ever attempted a description of it has overdrawn its 
enthusiasm and exciting scenes. Amid all the din and con- 
fusion, the curbstone contentions, the promiscuous wrang- 
ling of delegates, the deafening roar of the assembled 
hosts, the contest narrowed down to a neck-and-neck race 
between the brilliant statesman of Auburn and the less 
pretentious, but manly rail-splitter from the Sangamon 
bottoms. With the proceedings of the convention the 
world is already well familiar. On the first ballot Seward 
led, but was closely followed by Lincoln ; on the second 
Lincoln gained amazingly; on the third the race was an 
even one until the dramatic change by Carter, of Ohio, 
when Lincoln, swinging loose, swept grandly to the front. 
The cannon planted on the roof of the Wigwam belched 
forth a boom across the Illinois prairies. The sound was 
taken up and reverberated from Maine to California. With 
the nomination of Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine, the conven- 
tion adjourned. The delegates — victorious and vanquished 
alike — turned their steps homeward, and the great cam-, 
paign of 1860 had begun. The day before the nomination 
the editor of the Springfield Journal arrived in Chicago 


with a copy of the Missouri Democrat, in which Lincoln 
had marked three passages referring to Seward's position 
on the slavery question. On the margin of the paper he 
had written in pencil, "I agree with Seward in his 'Irre- 
pressible Conflict,' but I do not endorse his 'Higher Law' 
doctrine." Then he added in words underscored. "Make 
no contracts that will bind me." This paper was brought 
into the room where Davis, Judd, Logan, and I were 
gathered, and was read to us. But Lincoln was down in 
Springfield, some distance away from Chicago, and could 
therefore not appreciate the gravity of the situation ; at 
least so Davis argued, and, viewing it in that light, the 
latter went ahead with his negotiations. What the conse- 
quences of these deals were will appear later on. The 
news of his nomination found Lincoln at Springfield in 
the office of the Journal. Naturally enough he was nerv- 
ous, restless, and laboring under more or less suppressed 
excitement. He had been tossing ball — a pastime fre- 
quently indulged in by the lawyers of that day, and had 
played a few games of billiards to keep down, as another 
has expressed it, "the unnatural excitement that threatened 
to posses him." When the telegram containing the result 
of the last ballot came in, although apparently calm and 
undisturbed, a close observer could have detected in the 
compressed lip and serious countenance evidences of 
deep and unusual emotion. As the balloting progressed 
he had gone to the office of the Journal, and was sit- 
ting in a large arm-chair there when the news of his 
nomination came. What a line of scenes, stretching from 
the barren glade in Kentucky to the jubilant and enthuias- 
tic throng in the Wigwam at Chicago, must have broken 
in upon his vision as he hastened from the newspaper 
office to "tell a little woman down the street the news!" 
In the evening his friends and neighbors called to con- 
gratulate him. He thanked them feelingly and shook them 
each by the hand. A day later the committee from the 
convention, with George Ashmun, of Massachusetts, at its 
head, called, and delivered formal notice of his nomination. 
This meeting took place at his house. His response was 


couched in polite and dignified language, and many of the 
committee, who now met him for the first time, departed 
with an improved impression of the new standard-bearer. 
A few days later he wrote his official letter of acceptance, 
in which he warmly endorsed the resolutions of the con- 
vention. His actions and utterances so far had begun to 
dissipate the erroneous notion prevalent in some of the 
more remote Eastern States, that he was more of a back- 
woods boor than a gentleman ; but with the arrival of the 
campaign in dead earnest, people paid less attention to the 
candidates and more to the great issues at stake. Briefly 
stated, the Republican platform was a declaration that "the 
new dogma, that the Constitution carries slavery into all 
the Territories, is a dangerous political heresy, revolution- 
ary in tendency and subversive of the peace and harmony 
of the country ; that the normal condition of all the Terri- 
tories is that of freedom ; that neither Congress, the Terri- 
torial Legislature, nor any individual can give legal exist- 
ence to slavery in any Territory; that the opening of the 
slave trade would be a crime against humanity." Resolu- 
tions favoring a homestead law, river and harbor improve- 
ments, and the Pacific railroad were also included in the 
platfornLjVVith these the Republicans, as a lawyer would 
say, went to the country. The campaign which followed 
was one with few parallels in American history. There 
was not only the customary exultation and enthusiasm over 
candidates, but there was patient listening and hard think- 
ing among the masses. The slavery question, it was felt, 
must soon be decided. Threats of disunion were the texts 
of many a campaign speech in the South : in fact, as has 
since been shown, a deep laid conspiracy to overthrow the 
Union was then forming, and was only awaiting the elec- 
tion of a Republican President to show its hideous head. 
The Democratic party was struggling under the demoraliz- 
ing effects of a split, in which even the Buchanan admin- 
istration had taken sides. Douglas, the nominee of one 
wing, in his desperation had entered into the canvass him- 
self, making speeches with all the power and eloquence at 
his command. The Republicans, cheered over the pros- 


pect, had joined hands with the Abolitionists, and both 
were marching to victory under the inspiration of Lincoln's 
sentiment, that "the further spread of slavery should be 
arrested, and it should be placed where the public mind 
shall rest in the belief of its ultimate extinction." 

As the canvass advanced and waxed warm I tendered 
my services and made a number of speeches in the central 
part of the State. I remember, in the midst of a speech at 
Petersburg, and just as I was approaching an oratorical 
climax, a man out of breath came rushing up to me and 
thrust a message into my hand. I was somewhat frus- 
trated and greatly alarmed, fearing it might contain news 
of some accident in my family; but great was my relief 
when I read it, which I did aloud. It was a message from 
Lincoln, telling me to be of good cheer, that Ohio, Penn- 
sylvania, and Indiana had gone Republican. 

The handwriting of the note was a little tremulous, 
showing that Lincoln was excited and nervous when he 
wrote it. Following is a copy of the original MS. : 

"Springfield, III., October 10, 1860. 
"Dear William : I cannot give you details, but it is en- 
tirely certain that Pennsylvania and Indiana have gone Re- 
publican very largely. Pennsylvania 25,000, and Indiana 
5,000 to 10,000. Ohio of course is safe. 

"Yours as ever, 

"A. Lincoln." 

These were then October States, and this was the first 
gun for the great cause. It created so much demonstration, 
such a burst of enthusiasm and confusion, that the crowd 
forgot they had any speaker ; they ran yelling and hurrah- 
ing out of the hall, and I never succeeded in finishing 
the speech. 

As soon as officially notified of his nomination 9 Mr. 

9 Following is Lincoln's letter of acceptance : 

"Springfield, III., June 23, 1860. 

"Sir : I accept the nomination tendered me by the convention 
over which you presided, of which I am formally apprised in 
a letter of yourself and others, acting as a committee of the 


Lincoln moved his headquarters from our office to a room 
in the State House building, and there, with his secretary, 
John G. Nicolay, he spent the busy and exciting days of 
his campaign. Of course he attended to no law business, 
but still he loved to come to our office of evenings, and 
spend an hour with a few choice friends in a friendly 
privacy which was denied him at his public quarters. These 
were among the last meetings we had with Lincoln as our 
friend and fellow at the bar; and they are also the most 
delightful recollections any of us have retained of him. 

One of what Lincoln regarded as the remarkable feat- 
ures of his canvass for President was the attitude of some 
of his neighbors in Springfield. A poll of the voters had 
been made in a little book and given to him. On running 
over the names he found that the greater part of the 
clergy of the city — in fact all but three — were against him. 
This depressed him somewhat, and he called in Dr. Newton 
Bateman, who as Superintendent of Public Instruction 
occupied the room adjoining his own in the State House, 
and whom he habitually addressed as "Mr. Schoolmaster." 
He commented bitterly on the attitude of the preachers 
and many of their followers, who, pretending to be believ- 
ers in the Bible and God-fearing Christians, yet by their 
votes demonstrated that they cared not whether slavery 
was voted up or down. "God cares and humanity cares," 
he reflected, "and if they do not they surely have not read 
their Bible aright." 10 

convention for that purpose. The declaration of principles which 
accompanies your letter meets my approval, and it shall be my 
care not to violate it or disregard it in any part. Imploring 
the assistance of Divine Providence, and with due regard to the 
views and feelings of all who were represented in the convention, 
to the rights of all the states and territories and people of the 
nation, to the inviolability of the Constitution, and the perpetual 
union, prosperity, and harmony of all, I am most happy to co- 
operate for the practical success of the principles declared by 
the convention. 

"Your obliged friend and fellow-citizen, 
"Abraham Lincoln." 
"Hon. George Ashmun." 

^ Original footnote. 


At last the turmoil and excitement and fatigue of the 
campaign were over : the enthusiastic political workers 
threw aside their campaign uniforms, the boys blew out 
their torches, and the voter approached the polls with his 
ballot. On the morning of election day I stepped in to see 
Mr. Lincoln, and was surprised to learn that he did not 
intend to cast his vote. I knew of course that he did so 
because of a feeling that the candidate for a Presidential 
office ought not to vote for his own electors; but when I 
suggested the plan of cutting off the Presidential electors 
and voting for the State officers, he was struck with the 
idea, and at last consented. His appearance at the polls, 
accompanied by Ward Lamon, the lamented young Ells- 
worth, and myself, was the occasion of no little surprise 
because of the general impression which prevailed that he 
did not intend to vote. The crowd around the polls opened 
a gap as the distinguished voter approached, and some even 
removed their hats as he deposited his ticket and an- 
nounced in a subdued voice his name, "Abraham Lincoln." 

The election was held on the 6th of November. The 
result showed a populai vote of 1,857,610 for Lincoln; 
1,291,574 for Douglas; 850,022 for Breckenridge ; and 
646,124 for Bell. In the electoral college Lincoln received 
180 votes, Breckenridge 72, Bell 39, and Douglas 12. n 
Mr. Lincoln having now been elected, there remained, be- 
fore taking up the reins of government, the details of his 
departure from Springfield, and the selection of a cabinet. 

11 Lincoln electors were chosen in seventeen of the free States, 
as follows : Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Is- 
land, Connecticut, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, In- 
diana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, California, 
Oregon; and in one State, — New Jersey, — owing to a fusion 
between Democrats, Lincoln secured four and Douglas three of 
the electors. Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, 
Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and 
Texas went for Breckenridge; Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia 
for Bell; while Douglas secured only one entire State — Missouri. 



to take a breath until another campaign and one equally 
trying, so far as a test of his constitution and nerves are 
concerned, as the one through which he had just passed, 
opened up before him. I refer to the siege of the cabinet- 
makers and office-seekers. It proved to be a severe and 
protracted strain and one from which there seemed to be 
no relief, as the President-elect of this renowned demo- 
cratic Government is by custom and precedent expected 
to meet and listen to everybody who calls to see him. "In- 
dividuals, deputations, and delegations," says one of Mr. 
Lincoln's biographers, "from all quarters pressed in upon 
him in a manner that might have killed a man of less ro- 
bust constitution. The hotels of Springfield were filled 
with gentlemen who came with light baggage and heavy 
schemes. The party had never been in office. A clean 
sweep of the 'ins' was expected, and all the 'outs' were 
patriotically anxious to take the vacant places. It was a 
party that had never fed ; and it was vigorously hungry. 
Mr. Lincoln and Artemus Ward saw a great deal of fun 
in it; and in all human probability it was the fun alone 
that enabled Mr. Lincoln to bear it." 

A newspaper correspondent who had been sent down 
from Chicago to "write up" Mr. Lincoln soon after his 
nomination, was kind enough several years ago to furnish 
me with an account of his visit. As some of his remi- 
niscences are more or less interesting, I take the liberty 
of inserting a portion of his letter. "A what-not in the 
corner of the room," he relates, "was laden with various 
kinds of shells. Taking one in my hand, I said, This, I 


suppose, is called a Trocus by the geologist or naturalist.' 
Mr. Lincoln paused a moment as if reflecting and then 
replied, 'I do not know, for I never studied either geology 
or natural history/ I then took to examining the few 
pictures that hung on the walls, and was paying more 
than ordinary attention to one that hung above the sofa. 
He was immediately at my left and pointing to it said, 
'That picture gives a very fair representation of my homely 
face.' . . . The time for my departure nearing, I made 
the usual apologies and started to go. 'You cannot get out 
of town before a quarter past eleven,' remonstrated Mr. 
Lincoln, 'and you may as well stay a little longep^Under 
pretence of some unfinished matters down town, how- 
ever, I very reluctantly withdrew from the mansion. 
'Well,' said Mr. Lincoln, as we passed into the hall, 'sup- 
pose you come over to the State House before you start 
for Chicago.' After a moment's deliberation I promised 
to do so. Mr. Lincoln, following without his hat, and 
continuing the conversation, shook hands across the gate, 
saying, 'Now, come over.' I wended my way to my hotel, 
and after a brief period was in his office at the State 
House. Resuming conversation, he said, 'If the man comes 
with the key before you go, I want to give you a book.' 
I certainly hoped the man would come with the key. 
Some conversation had taken place at the house on which 
his book treated, — but I had forgotten this, — and soon Mr. 
Lincoln absented himself for perhaps two minutes and re- 
turned with a copy of the debates between himself and 
Judge Douglas. He placed the book on his knee, as he sat 
on two legs of his chair, and wrote on the fly-leaf, 'J. S. 
Bliss, from A. Lincoln.' Besides this he marked a com- 
plete paragraph near the middle of the book. While sitting 
in the position described little Willie, his son, came in 
and begged his father for twenty-five cents. 'My son,' 
said the father, 'what do you want with twenty-five cents ?' 
T want it to buy candy with,' cried the boy. T cannot give 
you twenty-five cents, my son, but will give you five cents,' 
at the same time putting his thumb and finger into his 
vest pocket and taking therefrom five cents in silver, which 


he placed upon the desk for the boy. But this did not 
reach Willie's expectations ; he scorned the pile, and turn- 
ing away clambered down-stairs and through the spacious 
halls of the Capitol, leaving behind him his five cents and a 
distinct reverberation of sound. Mr. Lincoln turned to 
me and said, 'He will be back after that in a few minutes.' 
Why do you think so?' said I. 'Because, as soon as he 
finds I will give him no more he will come and get it.' 
After the matter had been nearly forgotten and conversa- 
tion had turned in an entirely different channel, Willie 
came cautiously in behind my chair and that of his father, 
picked up the specie, and went away without saying a 
word." 1 

His own election of course disposed of any claims Illi- 
nois might have had to any further representation in the 
cabinet, but it afforded Mr. Lincoln no relief from the 
argumentative interviews and pressing claims of the end- 
less list of ambitious statesmen in the thirty-two other 
states, who swarmed into Springfield from every point of 
the compass. He told each one of them a story, and even if 
he failed to put their names on his slate they went away 
without knowing that fact, and never forgot the visj£A He 
had a way of pretending to assure his visitor that in the 
choice of his advisers he was "free to act as his judgment 
dictated," although David Davis, acting as his manager at 
the Chicago convention, had negotiated with the Indiana 
and Pennsylvania delegations, and assigned places in the 
cabinet to Simon Cameron and Caleb Smith, besides mak- 
ing other "arrangements" which Mr. Lincoln was expected 
to ratify. Of this he was undoubtedly aware, although 
in answer to a letter from Joshua R. Giddings, of Ohio, 
congratulating him on his nomination, he said, "It is in- 
deed most grateful to my feelings that the responsible 
position assigned me comes without conditions." Out of 
regard to the dignity of the exalted station he was about 
to occupy, he was not as free in discussing the matter of 
his probable appointments with some of his personal 

1 J. S. Bliss to Herndon, Jan. 29, 1867. The quotation was 
originally used as a footnote. 


friends as they had believed he would be. In one or two 
instances, I remember, the latter were offended at his 
seeming disregard of the claims of old friendship. My 
advice was not asked for on such grave subjects, nor had 
I any right or reason to believe it would be ; hence I never 
felt slighted or offended. On some occasions in our office, 
when Mr. Lincoln had come across from the State House 
for a rest or a chat with me, he would relate now and then 
some circumstance — generally an amusing one — connected 
with the settlement of the cabinet problem, but it was said 
in such a way that one would not have felt free to interro- 
gate him about his plans. Soon after his election I re- 
ceived from my friend Joseph Medill, of Chicago, a letter 
which argued strongly against the appointment of Simon 
Cameron to a place in the cabinet, and which the writer 
desired I should bring to Mr. Lincoln's attention. I 
awaited a favorable opportunity, and one evening when 
we were alone in our office I gave it to him. It was an 
eloquent protest against the appointment of a corrupt and 
debased man, and coming from the source it did — the 
writer being one of Lincoln's best newspaper supporters 
— made a deep impression on him. Lincoln read it over 
several times, but refrained from expressing any opinion. 
He did say, however, that he felt himself under no promise 
or obligation to appoint anyone ; that if his friends made 
any agreements for him they did so over his expressed 
direction and without his knowledge. At another time he 
said that he wanted to give the South, by way of placation, 
a place in his cabinet ; that a fair division of the country 
entitled the Southern States to a reasonable representation 
there, and if not interfered with he would make such a 
distribution as would satisfy all persons interested. He 
named three persons who would be acceptable to him. 
They were Botts, of Virginia; Stephens, of Georgia; and 
Maynard, of Tennessee. He apprehended no such grave 
danger to the Union as the mass of people supposed would 
result from the Southern threats, and said he could not 
in his heart believe that the South designed the overthrow 
of the Government. This is the extent of my conversa- 


tion about the cabinet. Thurlow Weed, the veteran in 
journalism and politics, came out from New York and 
spent several days with Lincoln. He was not only the 
representative of Senator Seward, but rendered the Presi- 
dent-elect signal service in the formation of his cabinet. 
In his autobiography Mr. Weed relates numerous inci- 
dents of this visit. He was one day opposing the claims of 
Montgomery Blair who aspired to a cabinet appointment, 
when Mr. Lincoln inquired of Weed whom he would 
recommend. "Henry Winter Davis," was the response. 
"David Davis, I see, has been posting you up on this ques- 
tion," retorted Lincoln. "He has Davis on the brain. I 
think Maryland must be a good State to move from." The 
President then told a story of a witness in court in a neigh- 
boring county, who on being asked his age replied, "Sixty." 
Being satisfied he was much older the question was re- 
peated, and on receiving the same answer, the court ad- 
monished the witness, saying, "The court knows you to be 
much older than sixty." "Oh, I understand now," was 
the rejoinder; "you're thinking of those ten years I spent 
on the eastern shore of Maryland ; that was so much time 
lost and don't count." 

Before Mr. Lincoln's departure from Springfield, peo- 
ple who knew him personally were frequently asked what 
sort of man he was. I received many letters, generally 
from the Eastern States, showing that much doubt still 
existed in the minds of the people whether he would prove 
equal to the great task that lay in store for him. Among 
others who wrote me on the subject was the Hon. Henry 
Wilson, late Vice-President of the United States, whom 
I had met during my visit to Washington in the spring of 
1858. Two years after Mr. Lincoln's death, Mr. Wilson 
wrote me as follows: "I have just finished reading your 
letter dated December 21, 1860, in answer to a letter of 
mine asking you to give me your opinion of the President 
just elected. In this letter to me you say of Mr. Lincoln 
what more than four years of observation confirmed. 
After stating that you had been his law partner for over 
eighteen years and his most intimate and bosom friend all 


that time you say, 'I know him better than he does him- 
self. I know this seems a little strong, but I risk the as- 
sertion. Lincoln is a man of heart — aye, as gentle as a 
woman's and as tender — but he has a will strong as iron. 
He therefore loves all mankind, hates slavery and every 
form of despotism. Put these together — love for the slave, 
and a determination, a will, that justice, strong and un- 
yielding, shall be done when he has the right to act, and 
you can form your own conclusions. Lincoln will fail 
here, namely, if a question of political economy — if any 
question comes up which is doubtful, questionable, which 
no man can demonstrate, then his friends can rule him; 
but when on justice, right, liberty, the Government, the 
Constitution, and the Union, then you may all stand aside ; 
he will rule then, and no man can move him — no set of men 
can do it. There is no fail here. This is Lincoln, and you 
mark my prediction. You and I must keep the people 
right ; God will keep Lincoln right.' These words of yours 
made a deep impression upon my mind, and I came to love 
and trust him even before I saw him. After an acquain- 
tance of more than four years I found that your idea of 
him was in all respects correct — that he was the loving, 
tender, firm, and just man you represented him to be; 
while upon some questions in which moral elements did 
not so clearly enter he was perhaps too easily influenced 
by others. Mr. Lincoln was a genuine democrat in feel- 
ings, sentiments, and actions. How patiently and con- 
siderately he listened amid the terrible pressure of public 
affairs to the people who thronged his ante-room! I re- 
member calling upon him one day during the war on press- 
ing business. The ante-room was crowded with men and 
women seeking admission. He seemed oppressed, care- 
worn, and weary. I said to him, 'Mr. President, you are 
too exhausted to see this throng waiting to see you; you 
will wear yourself out and ought not see these people 
today.' He replied, with one of those smiles in which 
sadness seemed to mingle, 'They don't want much; they 
get but little, and I must see them.' During the war his 
heart was oppressed and his life burdened with the con- 


flict between the tenderness of his nature and what seemed 
to be the imperative demands of duty. In the darkest 
hours of the conflict desertions from the army were fre- 
quent, and army officers urgently pressed the execution of 
the sentences of the law ; but it was with the greatest effort 
that he would bring himself to consent to-the execution of 
the judgment of the military tribunals. 1 I remember call- 
ing early one sabbath morning with a wounded Irish offi- 
cer, who came to Washington to say that a soldier who 
had been sentenced to be shot in a day or two for deser- 
tion had fought gallantly by his side in battle. I told Mr. 
Lincoln we had come to ask him to pardon the poor soldier. 
After a few moments' reflection he said, 'My officers tell 
me the good of the service demands the enforcement of 
the law ; but it makes my heart ache to have the poor fel- 
lows shot. I will pardon this soldier, and then you will all 
join in blaming me for it. You censure me for granting 
pardons, and yet you all ask me to do so/ I say again, no 
man had a more loving and tender nature than Mr. Lin- 

Before departing for Washington Mr. Lincoln went to 
Chicago 2 for a few days' stay, and there by previous ar- 
rangement met his old friend, Joshua F. Speed. Both 
were accompanied by their wives, and while the latter were 
out shopping the two husbands repaired to Speed's room 
at the hotel. "For an hour or more," relates Speed, "we 
lived over again the scenes of other days. Finally Lin- 
coln threw himself on the bed, and fixing his eyes on a 
spot in the ceiling asked me this question, 'Speed, what is 
your pecuniary condition? are you rich or poor?' I an- 

* Lincoln went to Chicago to meet Hannibal Hamlin, with 
whom he was unacquainted. Accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln, he 
left Springfield on November 21 and returned five days later. 
Herndon printed the following anecdote of the trip as a footnote : 
"A lady called one day at the hotel where the Lincolns were 
stopping in Chicago to take Mrs. Lincoln out for a promenade 
or a drive. She was met in the parlor by Mr. Lincoln, who, after 
a hurried trip up stairs to ascertain the cause of the delay in his 
wife's appearance, returned with the report that 'She will be 
down as soon as she has all her trotting harness on'." 


swered, addressing him by his new title, 'Mr. President, 
I think I can anticipate what you are going to say. I'll 
speak candidly to you on the subject. My pecuniary con- 
dition is satisfactory to me now ; you would perhaps call 
it good. I do not think you have within your gift any 
office I could afford to take.' Mr. Lincoln then proposed 
to make Guthrie, of Kentucky, Secretary of War, but did 
not want to write to him — asked me to feel of him. I did 
as requested, but the Kentucky statesman declined on the 
ground of his advanced age, and consequent physical ina- 
bility to fill the position. He gave substantial assurance 
of his loyal sentiments, however, and insisted that the 
Union should be preserved at all hazards." 

Late in January Mr. Lincoln informed me that he was 
ready to begin the preparation of his inaugural address. 
He had, aside from his law books and the few gilded vol- 
umes that ornamented the centre-table in his parlor at 
home, comparatively no library. He never seemed to care 
to own or collect books. On the other hand I had a very 
respectable collection, and was adding to it every day. 
To my library Lincoln very frequently had access. When, 
therefore, he began on his inaugural speech he told me 
what works he intended to consult. I looked for a long 
list, but when he went over it I was greatly surprised. 
He asked me to furnish him with Henry Clay's great 
speech delivered in 1850; Andrew Jackson's proclamation 
against Nullification ; and a copy of the Constitutiom^He 
afterwards called for Webster's reply to Hayne, a speech 
which he read when he lived at New Salem, and which he 
always regarded as the grandest specimen of American 
oratory. With these few "volumes," and no further sources 
of reference, he locked himself up in a room upstairs over 
a store across the street from the State House, and there, 
cut off from all communication and intrusion, he prepared 
the address. Though composed amid the unromantic sur- 
roundings of a dingy, dusty, and neglected back room, the 
speech has become a memorable document. Posterity will 
assign to it a high rank among historical utterances ; and 
it will ever bear comparison with the efforts of Washing- 


ton, Jefferson, Adams, or any that preceded its delivery 
from the steps of the national Capitol. 

After Mr. Lincoln's rise to national prominence, and 
especially since his death, I have often been asked if I did 
not write this or that paper for him ; if I did not prepare 
or help prepare some of his speeches. I know that other 
and abler friends of Lincoln have been asked the same 
question. ("I know it was the general impression in Wash- 
ington," said David Davis in 1866, "that I knew all about 
Lincoln's plans and ideas, but the truth is, I knew nothing. 
He never confided to me anything of his purposes.") 3 
To people who made such inquiries I always responded, 
"You don't understand Mr. Lincoln. No man ever asked 
less aid than he; his confidence in his own ability to 
meet the requirements of every hour was so marked that 
his friends never thought of tendering their jikL, and 
therefore no one could share his responsibilities^ I never 
wrote a line for him ; he never asked me to. I was never 
conscious of having exerted any influence over him. He 
often called out my views on some philosophical question, 
simply because I was a fond student of philosophy, and 
conceding that I had given the subject more attention than 
he ; he often asked as to the use of a word or the turn of 
a sentence, but if I volunteered to recommend or even 
suggest a change of language which involved a change of 
sentiment I found him the most inflexible man I have ever 

One more duty — an act of filial devotion — remained to 
be done before Abraham Lincoln could announce his readi- 
ness to depart for the city of Washington — a place from 
which it was unfortunately decreed he should never return. 
In the first week of February he slipped quietly away from 
Springfield and rode to Farmington in Coles County, 
where his aged step-mother was still living. Here, in the 
little country village, he met also the surviving members 
of the Hanks and Johnston families. He visited the grave 
of his father, old Thomas Lincoln, which had been un- 

3 Herndon used Davis' statement as a footnote in the original 


marked and neglected for almost a decade, and left direc- 
tions that a suitable stone should be placed there to mark 
the spot. Retracing his steps in the direction of Spring- 
field he stopped over-night in the town of Charleston, 
where he made a brief address, recalling many of his boy- 
hood exploits, in the public hall. In the audience were 
many persons who had known him first as the stalwart 
young ox-driver when his father's family drove into Illi- 
nois from southern Indiana. One man had brought with 
him a horse which the President-elect, in the earlier days 
of his law practice, had recovered for him in a replevin 
suit ; another one was able to recite from personal recollec- 
tion the thrilling details of the famous wrestling match 
between Lincoln the flat-boatman in 1830 and Daniel 
Needham ; and all had some reminiscence of his early 
manhood to relate. The separation from his step-mother 
was particularly touching. 4 The parting, when the good 
old woman, with tears streaming down her cheeks, gave 
him a mother's benediction, expressing the fear that his 
life might be taken by his enemies, will never be forgotten 
by those who witnessed it. Deeply impressed by this fare- 
well scene Mr. Lincoln reluctantly withdrew from the 
circle of warm friends who crowded around him, and, 
filled with gloomy forebodings of the future, returned to 
Springfield/The great questions of state having been 
pretty well settled in his own mind, and a few days yet 
remaining before his final departure, his neighbors and 

4 In a footnote to this sentence Herndon described Lincoln's 
love for his second mother as "a most filial and affectionate one/' 
In support of his statement he quoted the following letter, written 
in 1851 shortly after Thomas Lincoln's death: "Dear Mother: 
Chapman tells me he wants you to go and live with him. If I 
were you I would try it awhile. If you get tired of it (as I think 
you will not) you can return to your own home. Chapman feels 
very kindly to you; and I have no doubt he will make your 
situation very pleasant. Sincerely your son, A. Lincoln." He 
also quoted the following extract from a letter to John D. John- 
ston: "If the land can be sold so that I can get three hundred 
dollars to put to interest for mother I will not object if she 
does not. But before I will make a deed the money must be 
had, or secured beyond all doubt at ten per cent." 


old friends called to take leave of him and pay their "best 
respects." Many of these callers were from New Salem, 
where he had made his start in life, and each one had 
some pleasant or amusing incident of earlier days to call 
up when they met. Hannah Armstrong, who had "foxed" 
his trousers with buckskin in the days when he served as 
surveyor under John Calhoun, and whose son Lincoln had 
afterwards acquitted in the trial for murder at Beards- 
town, gave positive evidence of the interest she took in 
his continued rise in the world. She bade him good-bye, 
but was filled with a presentimen^t-that she would never 
see him alive again. "Hannah," he said, jovially, "if they 
do kill me I shall never die again." Isaac Cogsdale, an- 
other New Salem pioneer, came, and to him Lincoln again 
admitted his love for the unfortunate Anne Rutledge. 
Cogsdale afterwards told me of this interview. It occurred 
late in the afternoon. Mr. Nicolay, the secretary, had 
gone home, and the throng of visitors had ceased for the 
day. Lincoln asked about all the early families of New 
Salem, calling up the peculiarities of each as he went over 
the list. Of the Rutledges he said : "I have loved the name 
of Rutledge to this day. I have kept my mind on their 
movements ever since." Of Anne he spoke with some 
feeling: "I loved her dearly. She was a handsome girl, 
would have made a good, loving wife ; she was natural, and 
quite intellectual, though not highly educated. I did 
honestly and truly love the girl, and think often of her 

Early in February the last item of preparation for the 
journey to Washington had been made. Mr. Lincoln had 
disposed of his household goods and furniture to a neigh- 
bor, had rented his house ; and as these constituted all the 
property he owned in Illinois there was no further occa- 
sion for concern on that score. In the afternoon of his 
last day in Springfield he came down to our office to 
examine some papers and confer with me about certain 
legal matters in which he still felt some interest. On 
several previous occasions he had told me he was coming 
over to the office "to have a long talk with me," as he 


expressed it. We ran over the books and arranged for 
the completion of all unsettled and unfinished matters. In 
some cases he had certain requests to make — certain lines 
of procedure he wished me to observe. After these things 
were all disposed of he crossed to the opposite side of 
the room and threw himself down on the old office sofa, 
which, after many years of service, had been moved 
against the wall for support. He lay for some moments, 
his face towards the ceiling, without either of us speaking. 
Presently he inquired, "Billy," — he always called me by 
that name, — "how long have we been together ?" "Over 
sixteen years," I answered. "We've never had a cross 
word during all that time, have we?" to which I returned 
a vehement, "No, indeed we have not." He then recalled 
some incidents of his early practice and took great pleasure 
in delineating the ludicrous features of many a lawsuit on 
the circuit. It was at this last interview in Springfield 
that he told me of the efforts that had been made by other 
lawyers to supplant me in the partnership with him. He 
insisted that such men were weak creatures, who, to use 
his own language, "hoped to secure a law practice by 
hanging to his coat-tail." I never saw him in a more 
cheerful mood. He gathered a bundle of books and papers 
he wished to take with him and started to go ; but before 
leaving he made the strange request that the sign-board 
which swung on its rusty hinges at the foot of the stair- 
way should remain. "Let it hang there undisturbed," he 
said, with a significant lowering of his voice. "Give our 
clients to understand that the election of a President makes 
no change in the firm of Lincoln and Herndon. If I live 
I'm coming back some time, and then we'll go right on prac- 
ticing law as if -nothing had ever happened." He lingered 
for a moment as if to take a last look at the old quarters, 
and then passed through the door into the narrow hallway. 
I accompanied him downstairs. On the way he spoke of 
the unpleasant features surrounding the Presidential office. 
"I am sick of office-holding already," he complained, "and 
I shudder when I think of the tasks that are still ahead." 
He said the sorrow of parting from his old associates was 


deeper than most persons would imagine, but it was more 
marked in his case because of the feeling which had be- 
come irrepressible that he would never return alive. I 
argued against the thought, characterizing it as an illusory 
notion not in harmony or keeping with the popular ideal 
of a President. "But it is in keeping with my philosophy," 
was his quick retort. Our conversation was frequently 
broken in upon by the interruptions of passers-by, who, 
each in succession, seemed desirous of claiming his atten- 
tion. At length he broke away from them all. Grasping 
my hand warmly and with a fervent "Good-bye," he dis- 
appeared down the street, and never came back to the 
office again. 

In answer to the many inquiries made of me, I will say 
here that during this last interview Mr. Lincoln, for the 
first time, brought up the subject of an office under his 
administration. He asked me if I desired an appointment 
at his hands, and, if so, what I wanted. I answered that 
I had no desire for a Federal office, that I was then hold- 
ing the office of Bank Commissioner under appointment 
of Governor Bissell, and that if he would request my re- 
tention in office by Yates, the incoming Governor, I should 
be satisfied. He made the necessary recommendation, and 
Governor Yates complied. I was present at the meeting 
between Yates and Lincoln, and I remember that the for- 
mer, when Lincoln urged my claims for retention in office, 
asked Lincoln to appoint their mutual friend A. Y. Ellis 
postmaster at Springfield. I do not remember whether 
Lincoln promised to do so or not, but Ellis was never 
appointed. 5 \ 

["One^ncident attending this interview between Lincoln 
and Herndon," wrote Jesse W. Weik, "and which was 
communicated to me by the latter when I collaborated 
with him, has thus far not been told. Herndon, un- 
fortunately, had a decided and well-developed weakness 
for liquor, a habit which not only militated against his 
success as a lawyer, but seriously impaired his usefulness 
in other respects. The appetite which manifested itself 

5 Original footnote. 


at an early day gradually increased, the so-called sprees 
occurring at more frequent intervals as the days rolled by. 
Herndon, in the account which he gave me of this period 
of his life, including the story of his deplorable and bibu- 
lous habits, seemed to be anxious to reveal all the facts. 
Apparently he withheld nothing. In some respects it was 
a painful recital, but, having told everything, he appeared 
to experience more or less relief, much after the manner 
of the man who, being closeted with one of his closest 
friends, makes a clean breast of his delinquency. He ad- 
mitted that his conduct frequently was an embarrassment 
to Lincoln who was in every respect a total abstainer him- 
self. 'But although I have nothing to add in extenuation 
of my offense,' he said, 'I must insist that in his treatment 
of me Mr. Lincoln was the most generous, forebearing, 
and charitable man I ever knew. Often though I yielded 
to temptation he invariably refrained from joining in the 
popular denunciation which, though not unmerited, was 
so frequently heaped upon me. He never chided, never 
censured, never criticized my conduct — more than that, 
never, save on one occasion, alluded to it. That was the 
evening we were together in our office for the last time. 
It was near sunset.^vVe had finished the details of our 
business and for a while were engaged in the exchange of 
reminiscences when suddenly, without rising from his seat, 
he blurted out: "Billy, there's one thing I have, for some 
time, wanted you to tell me, but I reckon I ought to 
apologize for my nerve and curiosity in asking it even 
now." "What is it ?" I inquired. "I want you to tell me," 
he said, "how many times you have been drunk." It was, 
of course, a rather blunt inquiry, but unexpected though 
it was I realized that it came from an honest inquirer, one 
who had a right to the information, and I therefore an- 
swered it as promptly and definitely as the limited sources 
of knowledge at my command would warrant. Meanwhile 
I felt sure a lecture or moral admonition would follow and 
prepared myself accordingly, but much to my surprise 
nothing more was said by him on the subject. Instead he 
relieved my tension by describing the various efforts that 
had been made to induce him to drop me from the partner- 


ship and substitute certain others, whom he named, all of 
which was a surprise to me. He assured me that he invar- 
iably declined the intervention of others and admonished 
those who sought to displace me that, despite my short- 
comings, he believed in me and therefore would not desert 
me/ " 6 ] 

On the morning following this last interview, the 11th 
day of February, the Presidential party repaired to the 
railway station, where the train which was to convey them 
to Washington awaited the ceremony of departure. The 
intention was to stop at many of the principal cities along 
the route, and plenty of time had been allotted for the 
purpose. Mr. Lincoln had told me that a man named 
Wood had been recommended to him by Mr. Seward, and 
he had been placed in charge of the party as a sort of gen- 
eral manager. The party, besides the President, his wife, 
and three sons, Robert, William, and Thomas, consisted 
of his brother-in-law, Dr. W. S. Wallace, David Davis, 
Norman B. Judd, Elmer E. Ellsworth, Ward H. Lamon, 
and the President's two secretaries, John G. Nicolay and 
John Hay. Colonel E. V. Sumner and other army gen- 
tlemen were also in the car, and some friends of Mr. Lin- 
coln — among them O. H. Browning, Governor Yates, and 
ex-Governor Moore — started with the party from Spring- 
field, but dropped out at points along the way. The day 
was a stormy one, with dense clouds hanging heavily over- 
head. A goodly throng of Springfield people had gathered 
to see the distinguished party safely off. After the latter 
had entered the car the people closed about it until the 
President appeared on the rear platform. He stood for 
a moment as if to suppress evidences of his emotion, and 
removing his hat made the following brief but dignified 
and touching address ; "Friends : No one who has never 
been placed in a like position can understand my feelings 
at this hour, nor the oppressive sadness I feel at this part- 
ing. For more than a quarter of a century I have lived 
among you, and during all that time I have received noth- 

6 Weik, The Real Lincoln, pp. 300-02. This passage is quoted 
by permission of and special arrangement with Houghton Mifflin 
Company, authorized publishers. 


ing but kindness at your hands. Here I have lived from 
my youth until now I am an old man. Here the most 
sacred ties of earth were assumed. Here all my children 
were born ; and here one of them lies buried. To you, 
dear friends, I owe all that I have, all that I am. All the 
strange, checkered past seems to crowd now upon my 
mind. Today I leave you. I go to assume a task more 
difficult than that which devolved upon Washington. Un- 
less the great God who assisted him shall be with and aid 
me, I must fail; but if the same omniscient mind and al- 
mighty arm that directed and protected him shall guide and 
support me I shall not fail — I shall succeed. Let us all 
pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now. 
To him I commend you all. Permit me to ask that with 
equal sincerity and faith you will invoke his wisdom and 
guidance for me. With these words I must leave you, for 
how long I know not. Friends, one and all, I must now 
^bid you an affectionate farewell." 

I was not present when Mr. Lincoln delivered his fare- 
well at the depot at Springfield, and never heard what he 
said. I have adopted the version of his speech as pub- 
lished in our papers. There has been some controversy 
over the exact language he used on that occasion, and Mr. 
Nicolay has recently published the speech from what he 
says is the original MS., partly in his own and partly in 
the handwriting of Mr. Lincoln. Substantially, however, 
it is like the speech as reproduced here from the Spring- 
field paper. 7 

7 Following is the Nicolay version to which Herndon refers: 
"My Friends : No one, not in my situation, can appreciate 
my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the 
kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived 
a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old 
man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I 
now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, 
with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Wash- 
ington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever 
attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot 
fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with 
you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that 
all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in 

meserve no. ioo. A photograph made by Alex- 
ander Gardner on April 10, 1865, two days 
before the assassination of Lincoln. 



At the conclusion of this neat and appropriate farewell 
the train rolled slowly out, and Mr. Lincoln, still standing 
in the doorway of the rear car, took his last view of 
Springfield. The journey had been as well advertised as 
it had been carefully planned, and therefore, at every town 
along the route, and at every stop, great crowds were 
gathered to catch a glimpse of the President-elect. 8 Mr. 
Lincoln usually gratified the wishes of the crowds, who 
called him out for a speech whether it was down on the 

your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate 

The paragraph to which this note is appended and the one 
which follows it were originally footnotes. 

8 The following letter, used by Herndon as a footnote, explains 
Lincoln's decision to grow a beard : 

"Before Mr. Lincoln's election in 1860 I, then a child of 
eleven years, was presented with his lithograph. Admiring him 
with my whole heart, I thought still his appearance would be 
much improved should he cultivate his whiskers. Childish thoughts 
must have utterance. So I proposed the idea to him, expressing 
as well as I was able the esteem in which he was held among 
honest men. A few days after I received this kind and friendly 
letter : 

" 'Springfield, III., October 19, 1860. 

" 'Miss Grace Bedell. 

" 'My Dear Little Miss : — Your very agreeable letter of the 
15th is received. I regret the necessity of saying I have no 
daughter. I have three sons — one seventeen, one nine, and one 
seven. They with their mother constitute my whole family. As 
to the whiskers, as I have never worn any, do you not think 
that people would call it a piece of silly affectation were I to 
begin wearing them now? 

" 'I am your true friend and sincere well-wisher. 

" 'A. Lincoln.' 

"It appears I was not forgotten, for after his election to the 
Presidency, while on his journey to Washington, the train stopped 
at Westfield, Chautauqua County, at which place I then resided. 
Mr. Lincoln said, 'I have a correspondent in this place, a little 
girl whose name is Grace Bedell, and I would like to see her.' 
I was conveyed to him ; he stepped from the cars, extending his 
hand and saying, 'You see I have let these whiskers grow for 
you, Grace,' kissed me, shook me cordially by the hand, and 
was gone. I was frequently afterward assured of his remem- 
brance.' " Grace Bedell to Herndon, Dec. 14, 1866. 


regular program of movements or not. In all cases his 
remarks were well-timed and sensibly uttered. At In- 
dianapolis, where the Legislature was in session, he halted 
for a day and delivered a speech the burden of which was 
an answer to the Southern charges of coercion and in- 
vasion. From Indianapolis he moved on to Cincinnati and 
Columbus, at the last-named place meeting the Legislature 
of Ohio. The remainder of the journey convinced Mr. 
Lincoln of his strength in the affections of the people. 
Many, no doubt, were full of curiosity to see the now 
famous rail-splitter, but all were outspoken and earnest in 
their assurances of support. At Steubenville, Pittsburgh, 
Cleveland, Buffalo, Albany, New York, and Philadelphia 
he made manly and patriotic speeches. These speeches, 
plain in language and simple in illustration, made every 
man who heard them a stronger friend than ever of the 
Government. He was skilful enough to warn the people 
of the danger ahead and to impress them with his ability 
to deal properly with the situation, without in any case 
outlining his intended policy or revealing the forces he 
held in reserve. At Pittsburgh he advised deliberation and 
begged the American people to keep their temper on both 
sides of the line. At Cleveland he insisted that "the crisis, 
as it is called, is an artificial crisis and has no foundation 
in fact;" and at Philadelphia he assured his listeners that 
under his administration there would be "no bloodshed 
unless it was forced upon the Government, and then it 
would be compelled to act in self-defense/' This last 
utterance was made in front of Independence Hall, where, 
a few moments before, he had unfurled to the breeze a 
magnificent new flag, an impressive ceremony performed 
amid the cheers swelling from the vast sea of upturned 
faces before him. From Philadelphia his journey took 
him to Harrisburg, where he visited both branches of the 
Legislature then in session. For an account of the re- 
mainder of this now famous trip I beg to quote from the 
admirable narrative of Dr. Holland. Describing the wel- 
come tendered him by the Legislature at Harrisburg, the 
latter says : "At the conclusion of the exercises of the 


day Mr. Lincoln, who was known to be very weary, was 
permitted to pass undisturbed to his apartments in the 
Jones House. It was popularly understood that he was 
to start for Washington the next morning, and the people 
of Harrisburg supposed they had only taken a temporary 
leave of him. He remained in his rooms until nearly six 
o'clock, when he passed into the street, entered a carriage 
unobserved in company with Colonel Lamon, and was 
driven to a special train on the Pennsylvania railroad in 
waiting for him. As a matter of precaution the telegraph 
wires were cut the moment he left Harrisburg, so that if 
his departure should be discovered intelligence of it could 
not be communicated at a distance. At half -past ten the 
train arrived at Philadelphia, and here Mr. Lincoln was 
met by a detective, who had a carriage in readiness in 
which the party were driven to the depot of the Philadel- 
phia, Wilmington, and Baltimore railroad. At a quarter 
past eleven they arrived and very fortunately found the 
regular train, which should have left at eleven, delayed. 
The party took berths in the sleeping-car, and without 
change of cars passed directly through Baltimore to Wash- 
ington, where Mr. Lincoln arrived at half-past six o'clock 
in the morning and found Mr. Washburne anxiously await- 
ing him. He was taken into a carriage and in a few minutes 
he was talking over his adventures with Senator Seward 
at Willard's Hotel." The remaining members of the 
Presidential party from whom Mr. Lincoln separated at 
Harrisburg left that place on the special train intended for 
him ; and as news of his safe arrival in Washington had 
been already telegraphed over the country no attempt was 
made to interrupt their safe passage through Baltimore. 
As is now generally well known many threats had up to 
that time been made that Mr. Lincoln, on his way to 
Wa shington, should never pass through Baltimore alive. 
r It was reported and believed that conspiracies had been 
formed to attack the train, blow it up with explosives or 
in some equally effective way dispose of the President- 
elect. Mr. Seward and others were so deeply impressed 
with the grave features of the reports afloat that Allan 


Pinkerton, the noted detective of Chicago, was employed 
to investigate the matter and ferret out the conspiracy, if 
any existed. This shrewd operator went to Baltimore, 
opened an office as a stock-broker, and through his assist- 
ants — the most adroit and serviceable of whom was a 
woman — was soon in possession of inside, information. 
The change of plans and trains at Harrisburg was due 
to his management and advice. Some years before his 
death Mr. Pinkerton furnished me with a large volume 
of the written reports of his subordinates and an elaborate 
account by himself of the conspiracy and the means he 
employed to ferret it out. The narrative, thrilling enough 
in some particulars, is too extended for insertion here. 
It is enough for us to know that the tragedy was success- 
fully averted and that Mr. Lincoln was safely landed in 

In January preceding his departure from Springfield 
Mr. Lincoln, becoming somewhat annoyed, not to say 
alarmed, at the threats emanating from Baltimore and 
other portions of the country adjacent to Washington, 
that he should not reach the latter place alive, and that 
even if successful in reaching the Capital his inauguration 
should in some way be prevented, determined to ascertain 
for himself what protection would be given him in case 
an effort should be made by an individual or a mob to do 
him violence. He sent a young military officer in the per- 
son of Thomas Mather, then Adjutant-General of Illinois, 
to Washington with a letter to General Scott, in which he 
recounted the threats he had heard and ventured to in- 
quire as to the probability of any attempt at his life being 
made on the occasion of his inauguration. General 
Mather, on his arrival in Washington, found General Scott 
confined to his room by illness and unable to see visitors. 
On Mather calling a second time and sending in his letter 
he was invited up to the sick man's chamber. "Entering 
the room," related Mather in later years, "I found the 
old warrior, grizzly and wrinkled, propped up in the bed 
by an embankment of pillows behind his back. His hair 
and beard were considerably disordered, the flesh seemed 


to lay in rolls across his warty face and neck, and his 
breathing was not without great labor. In his hand he 
still held Lincoln's letter. He was weak from long-con- 
tinued illness, and trembled very perceptibly. It was evi- 
dent that the message from Lincoln had wrought up the 
old veteran's feelings. 'General Mather,' he said to me, in 
great agitation, 'present my compliments to Mr. Lincoln 
when you return to Springfield, and tell him I expect him 
to come on to Washington as soon as he is ready. Say 
to him that I'll look after those Maryland and Virginia 
rangers myself ; I'll plant cannon at both ends of Pennsyl- 
vania Avenue, and if any of them show their heads or 
raise a finger I'll blow them to hell.' On my return to 
Springfield," concludes Mather, "I hastened to assure Mr. 
Lincoln that, if Scott were alive on the day of the inaugu- 
ration, there need be no alarm lest the performance be 
interrupted by any one. I felt certain the hero of Lundy's 
Lane would give the matter the care and attention it de- 

Having at last reached his destination in safety, Mr. 
Lincoln spent the few days preceding his inauguration at 
Willard's Hotel, receiving an uninterrupted stream of 
visitors and friends. In the few unoccupied moments 
allotted him, he was carefully revising his inaugural ad- 
dress. On the morning of the 4th of March he rode from 
his hotel with Mr. Buchanan in an open barouche to the 
Capitol. There, slightly pale and nervous, he was intro- 
duced to the assembled multitude by his old friend Edward 
D. Baker, and in a fervid and impressive manner delivered 
his address. At its conclusion the customary oath was 
administered by the venerable Chief Justice Taney, and 
he was now clothed with all the powers and privileges of 
Chief Magistrate of the nation. He accompanied Mr. 
Buchanan to the White House and here the historic bache- 
lor of Lancaster bade him farewell, bespeaking for him a 
peaceful, prosperous, and successful administration. 

One who witnessed the impressive scene left the fol- 
lowing graphic description of the inauguration and its 
principal incidents : "Near noon I found myself a member 


of the motley crowd gathered about the side entrance to 
Willard's Hotel. Soon an open barouche drove up, and 
the only occupant stepped out. A large, heavy, awkward- 
moving man, far advanced in years, short and thin gray 
hair, full face, plentifully seamed and wrinkled, head curi- 
ously inclined to the left shoulder, a low-crowned, broad- 
brimmed silk hat, an immense white cravat like a poultice, 
thrusting the old-fashioned standing collar up to the ears, 
dressed in black throughout, with swallow-tail coat not of 
the newest style. It was President Buchanan, calling to 
take his successor to the Capitol. In a few minutes he 
reappeared, with Mr. Lincoln on his arm; the two took 
seats side-by-side, and the carriage rolled away, followed 
by a rather disorderly and certainly not very imposing 
procession. I had ample time to walk to the Capitol, and 
no difficulty in securing a place where everything could be 
seen and heard to the best advantage. The attendance at 
the inauguration was, they told me, unusually small, many 
being kept away by anticipated disturbance, as it had been 
rumored — truly, too — that General Scott himself was fear- 
ful of an outbreak, and had made all possible military 
preparations to meet the emergency. A square platform 
had been built out from the steps to the eastern portico, 
with benches for distinguished spectators on three sides. 
Douglas, the only one I recognized, sat at the extreme 
end of the seat on the right of the narrow passage leading 
from the steps. There was no delay, and the gaunt form 
of the President-elect was soon visible, slowly making his 
way to the front. To me, at least, he was completely 
metamorphosed — partly by his own fault, and partly 
through the efforts of injudicious friends and ambitious 
tailors. He was raising (to gratify a very young lady, 
it is said) a crop of whiskers, of the blacking-brush va- 
riety, coarse, stiff, and ungraceful ; and in so doing spoiled, 
or at least seriously impaired, a face which, though never 
handsome, had in its original state a peculiar power and 
pathos. On the present occasion the whiskers were rein- 
forced by brand-new clothes from top to toe ; black dress- 
coat, instead of the usual frock, black cloth or satin vest, 


black pantaloons, and a glossy hat evidently just out o£ 
the box. To cap the climax of novelty, he carried a huge 
ebony cane, with a gold head the size of an egg. In these, 
to him, strange habiliments, he looked so miserably un- 
comfortable that I could not help pitying him. Reaching 
the platform, his discomfort was visibly increased by not 
knowing what to do with hat and cane; and so he stood 
there, the target for ten thousand eyes, holding cane in 
one hand and hat in the other, the very picture of helpless 
embarrassment. After some hesitation he pushed the cane 
into a corner of the railing, but could not find a place for 
the hat except on the floor, where I could see he did not 
like to risk it. Douglas, who fully took in the situation, 
came to the rescue of his old friend and rival, and held the 
precious hat until the owner needed it again ; a service 
which, if predicted two years before, would probably have 
astonished him. The oath of office was administered by 
Chief Justice Taney, whose black robes, attenuated figure, 
and cadaverous countenance reminded me of a galvanized 
corpse. Then the President came forward, and read his 
inaugural address in a clear and distinct voice. It was at- 
tentively listened to by all, but the closest listener was 
Douglas, who leaned forward as if to catch every word, 
nodding his, head emphatically at those passages which 
most pleased him. There was some applause, not very 
much nor very enthusiastic. I must not forget to mention 
the presence of a Mephistopheles in the person of Senator 
Wigfall, of Texas, who stood with folded arms leaning 
against the doorway of the Capitol, looking down upon 
the crowd and the ceremony with a contemptuous air, 
which sufficiently indicated his opinion of the whole per- 
formance. To him the Southern Confederacy was already 
an accomplished fact. He lived to see it the saddest of 



Lincoln the lawyer and politician. In the latter capacity 
pnly had his old friends in Illinois known him. For a 
long time after taking his seat they were curious to know 
what change, if any, his exalted station had made in him. 
He was no longer amid people who had seen him grow 
from the village lawyer to the highest rank in the land, 
and whose hands he could grasp in the confidence of a 
time-tried friendship; but now he was surrounded by 
wealth, power, fashion, influence, by adroit politicians and 
artful schemers of every sort. In the past his Illinois and 
particularly his Springfield friends had shared the anxiety 
and responsibility of every step he made; but now they 
were no longer to continue in the partnership. Many of 
them wanted no office, but all of them felt great interest 
as well as pride in his future. A few attempted to keep up 
a correspondence with him, but his answers were tardy and 
irregular. Because he did not appoint a goodly portion of 
his early associates to comfortable offices, and did not 
interest himself in the welfare of everyone whom he had 
known in Illinois, or met while on the circuit, the erroneous 
impression grew that his elevation had turned his head. 
There was no foundation for such an unwarranted con- 

Lincoln, even after his elevation to the Presidency, al- 
ways had an eye out for his friends, as the following 
letters will abundantly prove: 


"Executive Mansion, Washington, April 20, 1864. 
"Calvin Truesdale, Esq. 

"Postmaster, Rock Island, III. : 
"Thomas J. Pickett, late agent for the Quartermaster's De- 
partment for the Island of Rock Island, has been removed or 
suspended from that position on a charge of having sold timber 
and stone from the island for his private benefit. Mr. Pickett 
is an old acquaintance and friend of mine, and I will thank 
you, if you will, to set a day or days and place on and at 
which to take testimony on the point. Notify Mr. Pickett 
and one J. B. Danforth (who as I understand makes the 
charge) to be present with their witnesses. Take the testi- 
mony in writing offered by both sides, and report it in full 
to me. Please do this for me. 

"Yours truly, 

"A. Lincoln." 

The man Pickett was formerly the editor of a news- 
paper in northern Illinois, and had, to use an expression 
of later days, inaugurated in the columns of his paper 
Lincoln's boom for the Presidency. When he afterwards 
fell under suspicion, no one came to his rescue sooner 
than the President himself. 

The following letter needs no explanation: 

"Executive Mansion, Washington, August 27, 1862. 
"Hon. Wash. Talcott. 

"My Dear Sir: — I have determined to appoint you collec- 
tor. I now have a very special request to make of you, which 
is, that you will make no war upon Mr. Washburne, who is 
also my friend, and of longer standing than yourself. I will 
even be obliged if you can do something for him if occasion 

"Yours truly, 

"A. Lincoln." 

Mr. Talcott, to whom it was addressed, was furnished 
a letter of introduction by the President, as follows : 

"The Secretary of the Treasury and the Commissioner of 
Internal Revenue will please see Mr. Talcott, one of the best 


men there is, and, if any difference, one they would like better 
than they do me. 

"A. Lincoln." * 
August 18, 1862. 

Lincoln had not changed a particle. He was overrun 
with cares ; his surroundings were different and his friends 
were new, but he himself was the same calm, just, and 
devoted friend as of yore. His letters were few and brief, 
but they showed no lack of gratitude or appreciation, as 
the following one to me will testify: 

"Executive Mansion, February 3, 1862. 
"Dear William : — 

"Yours of January 30th is just received. Do just as you 
say about the money matters. As you well know, I have not 
time enough to write a letter of respectable length. God bless 
you, says 

"Your friend, 

"A. Lincoln." 2 

His letters to others were of the same warm and gen- 
erous tenor, but yet the foolish notion prevailed that he 
had learned to disregard the condition and claims of his 
Springfield friends. One of the latter who visited Wash- 
ington returned somewhat displeased because Mr. Lin- 
coln failed to inquire after the health and welfare of each 
one of his old neighbors. The report spread that he cared 
nothing for his home or the friends who had made him 
what he was. Those who entertained this opinion of the 
man forgot that he was not exactly the property of Spring- 
field and Illinois, but the President of all the States in 
+ .he Union. 

The following letter from a disappointed Illinois friend 
will serve to illustrate the perplexities that beset Lincoln in 

1 Herndon originally used the letters to Truesdale and Talcott 
as a footnote. 

2 In a footnote to this letter Herndon printed the following 
telegram, dispatched to him by Lincoln on February 19, 1863 : 

"Would you accept a job of about a month's duration, at St. 
Louis, $5 a day and mileage? Answer. A. Lincoln." 


disposing of the claims of personal friendship. It was 
written by a man of no inconsiderable reputation in Illi- 
nois, where he at one time filled a State office: "Lincoln 
is a singular man, and I must confess I never knew him. 
He has for twenty years past used me as a plaything to 
accomplish his own ends ; but the moment he was elevated 
to his proud position he seems all at once to have entirely 
changed his whole nature and become altogether a new 
being. He knows no one, and the road to his favor is 
always open to his enemies, while the door is hermetically 
sealed to his old friends." 3 

In this connection it may not be out of order to refer 
briefly to the settlement by Mr. Lincoln of the claims his 
leading Illinois friends had on him. As before observed 
his own election to the Presidency canceled Illinois as a 
factor in the cabinet problem, but in no wise disposed of 
the friends whom the public expected and whom he him- 
self intended should be provided for. Of these latter the 
oldest and most zealous and effective was David Davis. ("I 
had done Lincoln many, many favors, had electioneered 
for him, spent my money for him, worked and toiled for 
him," said Davis in 1866.) It is not extravagance, taking 
their long association together in mind, to say that Davis 
had done more for Lincoln than any dozen other friends 
he had. Of course, after Lincoln was securely installed in 
office, the people, especially in Illinois, awaited his recog- 
nition of Davis. What was finally done is minutely told 
in a letter by Leonard Swett, which it is proper here to 
insert : 

"Chicago, III., August 29, 1887. 
"William H. Herndon. 

"My Dear Sir:- — Your inquiry in reference to the circum- 
stances of the appointment of David Davis as one of the 
Justices of the Supreme Court reached me last evening. In 
reply I beg leave to recall the fact, that in 1860 the politicians 
of Illinois were divided into three divisions, which were 
represented in the Decatur convention by the votes on the 

3 This paragraph, and the statement of Davis in the following 
one, were originally footnotes. 


nomination for Governor. The largest vote was for Norman 
B. Judd, of Chicago, his strength in the main being the north- 
ern part of the State. I was next in order of strength, and 
Richard Yates the third, but the divisions were not materially 
unequal. The result was Yates was nominated, his strength 
being about Springfield and Jacksonville, extending to Quincy 
on the west, and mine was at Bloomington and vicinity and 
south and southeast. 

"These divisions were kept up a while after Mr. Lincoln's 
election, and were considered in the distribution of Federal 
patronage. A vacancy in the United States Senate occurred 
early in 1861 by the death of Stephen A. Douglas, and 
Governor Yates appointed Orville H. Browning, of Quincy, to 
fill the vacancy. There was also a vacancy upon the Su- 
preme Bench of the United States to be filled from this general 
vicinity by Mr. Lincoln in the early part of his administration, 
and Judge Davis, of Bloomington, and Mr. Browning, of 
Quincy, were aspirants for the position. Mr. Browning had 
the advantage that Lincoln was new in his seat, and Sen- 
ators were august personages ; and, being in the Senate and a 
most courteous and able gentleman, Mr. Browning succeeded 
in securing nearly all the senatorial strength, and Mr. Lincoln 
Was nearly swept off his feet by the current of influence. 
Davis' supporters were the circuit lawyers mainly in the east- 
ern and central part of the State. These lawyers were at 
home, and their presence was not a living force felt constantly 
by the President at Washington. 

"I was then living at Bloomington, and met Judge Davis 
every day. As months elapsed we used to get word from 
Washington in reference to the condition of things; finally, 
one day the word came that Lincoln had said, T do not know 
what I may do when the time comes, but there has never been 
a day when if I had to act I should not have appointed Brown- 
ing.' Judge Davis, General Orme, and myself held a consulta- 
tion in my law-office at Bloomington. We decided that the 
remark was too Lincolnian to be mistaken and no man but he 
could have put the situation so quaintly. We decided also that 
the appointment was gone, and sat there glum over the situa- 
tion. I finally broke the silence, saying in substance, 'The 
appointment is gone and I am going to pack my carpet-sack 
for Washington.' 'No, you are not,' said Davis. 'Yes, I am,' 
was my reply. 'Lincoln is being swept off his feet by the in- 


fluence of these Senators, and I will have the luxury of one 
more talk with him before he acts/ 

"I did go home, and two days thereafter, in the morning 
about seven o'clock — for I knew Mr. Lincoln's habits well — 
was at the White House and spent most of the forenoon with 
him. I tried to impress upon him that he had been brought 
into prominence by the Circuit Court lawyers of the old eighth 
Circuit, headed by Judge Davis. 'If/ I said, 'Judge Davis, 
with his tact and force, had not lived, and all other things had 
been as they were, I believe you would not now be sitting 
where you are/ He replied gravely, 'Yes, that is so/ 'Now 
it is a common law of mankind/ said I, 'that one raised into 
prominence is expected to recognize the force that lifts him, 
or, if from a pinch, the force that lets him out. The Czar 
Nicholas was once attacked by an assassin; a kindly hand 
warded off the blow and saved his life. The Czar hunted out 
the owner of that hand and strewed his pathway with flowers 
through life. The Emperor Napoleon III has hunted out 
everybody who even tossed him a biscuit in his prison at Ham 
and has made him rich. Here is Judge Davis, whom you 
know to be in every respect qualified for this position, and 
you ought in justice to yourself and public expectation to give 
him this place/ We had an earnest pleasant forenoon, and I 
thought I had the best of the argument, and I think he thought 
so too. 

"I left him and went to Willard's Hotel to think over the 
interview, and there a new thought struck me. I therefore 
wrote a letter to Mr. Lincoln and returned to the White 
House. Getting in, I read it to him and left it with him. It 
was, in substance, that he might think if he gave Davis this 
place the latter when he got to Washington would not give 
him any peace until he gave me a place equally as good; that 
I recognized the fact that he could not give this place to 
Davis, which would be charged to the Bloomington faction 
in our State politics, and then give me anything I would have 
and be just to the party there; that this appointment, if made, 
should kill 'two birds with one stone'; that I would accept it 
as one-half for me and one-half for the Judge; and that there- 
after, if I or any of my friends ever troubled him, he could 
draw that letter as a plea in bar on that subject. As I read 
it Lincoln said, 'If you mean that among friends as it reads I 
will take it and make the appointment.' He at once did as 
he said. 


"He then made a request of the Judge after his appoint- 
ment in reference to a clerk in his circuit, and wrote him a 
notice of the appointment, which Davis received the same af- 
ternoon I returned to Bloomington. 

"Judge Davis was about fifteen years my senior. I had 
come to his circuit at the age of twenty-four, and between 
him and Lincoln I had grown up leaning in hours of weak- 
ness on their own great arms for support. I was glad of the 
opportunity to put in the mite of my claims upon Lincoln and 
give it to Davis, and have been glad I did it every day since. 

"An unknown number of people have almost every week 
since, speaking perhaps extravagantly, asked me in a quasi- 
confidential manner. 'How was it that you and Lincoln were 
so intimate and he never gave you anything ?' I have generally 
said, 'It seems to me that is my question, and so long as I 
don't complain I do not see why you should/ I may be par- 
doned also for saying that I have not considerd every man 
not holding an office out of place in life. I got my eyes open 
on this subject before I got an office, and as in Washington I 
saw the Congressman in decline I prayed that my latter end 
might not be like his. 

"Yours truly, 

"Leonard Swett." 

Before his departure for Washington, Mr. Lincoln had 
on several occasions referred in my presence to the gravity 
of the national questions that stared him in the face; yet 
from what he said I caught no definite idea of what his 
intentions were. He told me he would rely upon me to 
keep him informed of the situation about home, what his 
friends were saying of him, and whether his course was 
meeting with their approval. He suggested that I should 
write him frequently, and that arrangements would be 
made with his private secretary, Mr. Nicolay, that my let- 
ters should pass through the latter's hands unopened. This 
plan was adhered to, and I have every reason now to be- 
lieve that all my letters to Lincoln, although they contained 
no great secrets of state, passed unread into his hands. I 
was what the newspaper men would call a "frequent con- 
tributor." I wrote oftener than he answered, sometimes 
remitting him his share of old fees, sometimes dilating on 


national affairs, but generally confining myself to local 
politics and news in and around Springfield. I remember 
of writing him two copious letters, one on the necessity 
of keeping up the draft, the other admonishing him to 
hasten his Proclamation of Emancipation. In the latter 
I was especially fervid, assuring him, if he emancipated 
the slaves, he could "go down on the other side of life 
filled with the consciousness of duty well done, and along 
a pathway blazing w r ith eternal glory." How my rhetoric 
or sentiments struck him I never learned, for in the rush 
of executive business he never responded to either of the 
letters. Late in the summer of 1861, as elsewhere men- 
tioned in these chapters, I made my first and only visit 
to Washington while he was President. My mission was 
intended to promote the prospects of a brother-in-law, 
Charles W. Chatterton, who desired to lay claim to an 
office in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Mr. Lincoln ac- 
companied me to the office of the Commissioner of Indian 
Affairs, — William P. Dole of Paris, Illinois, — told a good 
story, and made the request which secured the coveted 
office — an Indian agency — in an amazingly short time. 
This was one of the few favors I asked of Mr. Lincoln, 
and he granted it "speedily — without delay ; freely — with- 
out purchase ; and fully — without denial. " I remained in 
Washington for several days after this, and, notwith- 
standing the pressure of business, he made me spend a 
good portion of the time at the White House. One thing 
he could scarcely cease from referring to was the per^ 
sistence of the office-seekers. They slipped in, he said, 
through the half -opened doors of the Executive Mansion; 
they dogged his steps if he walked ; they edged their way 
through the crowds and thrust their papers in his hands 
when he rode ; 4 and, taking it all in all, they well-nigh 

4 In a footnote Herndon incorporated Lincoln's account of an 
extreme incident: "He said that one day, as he was passing 
down Pennsylvania Avenue, a man came running after him, hailed 
him, and thrust a bundle of papers in his hands. It angered 
him not a little, and he pitched the papers back, saying, 'I'm 
not going to open shop here'." 


worried him to death. He said that, if the Government 
passed through the Rebellion without dismemberment, 
there was the strongest danger of its falling a prey to the 
rapacity of the office-seeking class, j 'This human struggle 
and scramble for office," were his words, "for a way to 
live without work, will finally test the strength of our 
institutions." A good part of the day during my stay 
I would spend with him in his office or waiting-room. I 
saw the endless line of callers, and met the scores of 
dignitaries one usually meets at the White House, even 
now; but nothing took place worthy of special mention 
here. One day Horace Maynard and Andrew Johnson, 
both senators from Tennessee, came in arm-in-arm. They 
declined to sit down, but at once set to work to discuss 
with the President his recent action in some case in which 
they were interested. Maynard seemed very earnest in 
what he said. "Beware, Mr. President," he said, "and do 
not go too fast. There is danger ahead." "I know that," 
responded Lincoln, good-naturedly, "but I shall go just so 
fast and only so fast as I think I'm right and the people 
are ready for the step." Hardly half-a-dozen words fol- 
lowed, when the pair wheeled around and walked away. 
The day following I left Washington for home. I sepa- 
rated from Mr. Lincoln at the White house. He followed 
me to the rear portico, where I entered the carriage to ride 
to the railroad depot. He grasped me warmly by the hand 
and bade me a fervent "Good-bye." It was the last time 
I ever saw him alive. 

Mrs. Ninian Edwards, who, it will be remembered, was 
the sister of Mrs. Lincoln, some time before her death 
furnished me an account of her visit to Washington, some 
of the incidents of which are so characteristic that I cannot 
refrain from giving them room here. This lady, without 
endeavoring to suppress mention of her sister's many 
caprices and eccentricities while mistress of the White 
House, remarked that, having been often solicited by the 
Lincolns to visit them, she and her husband, in answer to 
the cordial invitation, at last made the journey to Wash- 
ington. "One day while there," she relates, "in order to 


calm his mind, to turn his attention away from business 
and cheer him up, I took Mr. Lincoln down through the 
conservatory belonging to the Executive Mansion, and 
showed him the world of flowers represented there. He 
followed me patiently through. 'How beautiful these 
flowers are ! how gorgeous these roses ! Here are exotics/ 
I exclaimed, in admiration, 'gathered from the remotest 
corners of the earth, and grand beyond description.' A 
moody silence followed, broken finally by Mr. Lincoln with 
this observation : 'Yes, this whole thing looks like spring ; 
but do you know I have never been in here before. I 
don't know why it is so, but I never cared for flowers ; I 
seem to have no taste, natural or acquired, for such things.' 
I induced him one day," continued Mrs. Edwards, "to 
walk to the Park north of the White House. He hadn't 
been there, he said, for a year. On such occasions, when 
alone or in the company of a close friend, and released 
from the restraint of his official surroundings, he was 
wont to throw from his shoulders many a burden. He 
was a man I loved and respected. He was a good man, 
an honest and true one. Much of his seeming disregard, 
which has been tortured into ingratitude, was due to his 
peculiar construction. His habits, like himself, were odd 
and wholly irregular. He would move around in a vague, 
abstracted way, as if unconscious of his own or anyone 
else's existence. He had no expressed fondness for any- 
thing, and ate mechanically. I have seen him sit down 
at the table absorbed in thought, and never, unless re- 
called to his senses, would he think of food. But, how- 
ever peculiar and secretive he may have seemed, he was 
anything but cold. Beneath what the world saw lurked 
a nature as tender and poetic as any I ever knew. The 
death of his son Willie, which occurred in Washington, 
made a deep impression on him. It was the first death in 
his family, save an infant who died a few days after its 
birth in Springfield. On the evening we strolled through 
the Park he spoke of it with deep feeling, and he fre- 
quently afterward referred to it. When I announced my 
intention of leaving Washington he was much affected 


at the news of my departure. We were strolling through 
the White House grounds, when he begged me with tears 
in his eyes to remain longer. 'You have such strong con- 
trol and such an influence over Mary/ he contended, 'that 
when troubles come you can console me.' The picture of 
the man's despair never faded from my vision. Long af- 
ter my return to Springfield, on reverting to the sad sepa- 
ration, my heart ached because I was unable in my feeble 
way to lighten his burden." 

In the summer of 1866 I wrote to Mrs. Lincoln, then 
in Chicago, asking for a brief account of her own and her 
husband's life or mode of living while at the White House. 
She responded as follows : 

"375 West Washington Street, 

Chicago, III., August 28, 1866. 
"Hon. Wm. H. Herndon. 

"My Dear Sir : — Owing to Robert's absence from Chicago 
your last letter to him was only shown me last evening. The 
recollection of my beloved husband's truly affectionate regard 
for you, and the knowledge of your great love and reverence 
for the best man that ever lived, would of itself cause you to 
be cherished with the sincerest regard by my sons and myself. 
In my overwhelming bereavement those who loved my idolized 
husband aside from disinterested motives are very precious 
to me and mine. My grief has been so uncontrollable that, 
in consequence, I have been obliged to bury myself in solitude, 
knowing that many whom I would see could not fully enter 
into the state of my feelings. I have been thinking for some 
time past I would like to see you and have a long conversation. 
I wish to know if you will be in Springfield next Wednesday 
week, September 4; if so, at ten o'clock in the morning you 
will find me at the St. Nicholas Hotel. Please mention this 
visit to Springfield to no one. It is a most sacred one, as 
you may suppose, to visit the tomb which contains my all in 
life — my husband. ... If it will not be convenient, or if 
business at the time specified should require your absence, 
should you visit Chicago any day this week I will be pleased 
to see you. I remain, 

"Very truly, 

"Mary Lincoln." 


I met Mrs. Lincoln at the hotel in Springfield accord- 
ing to appointment. Our interview was somewhat ex- 
tended in range, but none the less interesting. Her state- 
ment made at the time now lies before me. "My husband 
intended," she said, "when he was through with his Presi- 
dential term, to take me and our boys with him to Europe. 
After his return from Europe he intended to cross the 
Rocky Mountains and go to California, where the sol- 
diers were to be digging out gold to pay the national debt. 
During his last days he and Senator Sumner became great 
friends, and were closely attached to each other. They 
were down the river after Richmond was taken — were full 
of joy and gladness at the thought of the war being over. 
Up to 1864 Mr. Lincoln wanted to live in Springfield, 
and if he died be buried there also; but after that and 
only a short time before his death he changed his mind 
slightly, but never really settled on any particular place. 
The last time I remember of his referring to the matter he 
said he thought it would be good for himself and me to 
spend a year or more travelling. As to his nature, he was 
the kindest man, most tender husband, and loving father 
in the world. He gave us all unbounded liberty, saying 
to me always when I asked for anything, 'You know what 
you want, go and get it,' and never asking if it were neces- 
sary. He was very indulgent to his children. He never 
neglected to praise them for any of their good acts. He 
often said, Tt is my pleasure that my children are free 
and happy, and unrestrained by parental tyranny. Love 
is the chain whereby to bind a child to its parents.' 

"My husband placed great reliance on my knowledge of 
human nature, often telling me, when about to make some 
important appointment, that he had no knowledge of men 
and their motives. It was his intention to remove Seward 
as soon as peace with the South was declared. He greatly 
disliked Andrew Johnson. Once the latter, when we were 
in company, followed us around not a little. It displeased 
Mr. Lincoln so much he turned abruptly and asked, loud 
enough to be heard by others, 'Why is this man forever 
following me?' At another time, when we were down at 


City Point, Johnson, still following- us, was drunk. Mr. 
Lincoln in desperation exclaimed, 'For God's sake don't 
ask Johnson to dine with us.' Sumner, who was along, 
joined in the request. Mr. Lincoln was mild in his man- 
ners, but he was a terribly firm man when he set his foot 
down. None of us, no man or woman, could rule him 
after he had once fully made up his mind. I could always 
tell when in deciding anything he had reached the ultima- 
tum. At first he was very cheerful, then he lapsed into 
thought fulness, bringing his lips together in a firm com- 
pression. When these symptoms developed I fashioned 
myself accordingly, and so did all others have to do sooner 
or later. When we first went to Washington many thought 
Mr. Lincoln was weak, but he rose grandly with the cir- 
cumstances. I told him once of the assertion I had heard 
coming from the friends of Seward, that the latter was 
the power behind the throne ; that he could rule him. He 
replied, T may not rule myself, but certainly Seward shall 
not. The only ruler I have is my conscience — following 
God in it — and these men will have to learn that yet.' 

"Some of the newspaper attacks on him gave him great 
pain. I sometimes read them to him, but he would beg 
me to desist, saying, 'I have enough to bear now, but yet 
I care nothing for them. If I'm right I'll live, and if 
wrong I'll die anyhow ; so let them fight at me unre- 
strained.' My playful response would be, 'The way to 
learn is to hear both sides.' I once assured him Chase 
and certain others who were scheming to supplant him 
ought to be restrained in their evil designs. 'Do good to 
them who hate you,' was his generous answer, 'and turn 
their ill-will into friendship/ 

"I often told Mr. Lincoln that God would not let any 
harm come of him. We had passed through four long 
years — terrible and bloody years — unscathed, and I be- 
lieved we would be released from all danger. He gradu- 
ally grew into that belief himself, and the old gloomy no- 
tion of his unavoidable taking-off was becoming dimmer 
as time passed away. Cheerfulness merged into joy ful- 
ness. The skies cleared, the end of the war rose dimly 


into view when the great blow came and shut him out for- 

•^For a glimpse of Lincoln's habits while a resident of 
Washington and an executive officer, there is no better 
authority than John Hay, who served as one of his secre- 
taries. In 1866, Mr. Hay, then a member of the United 
States Legation in Paris, wrote me an interesting account, 
which so faithfully delineates Lincoln in his public home 
that I cannot refrain from quoting it entire. Although the 
letter was written in answer to a list of questions I asked, 
and was prepared without any attempt at arrangement, still 
it is none the less interesting. "Lincoln went to bed ordi- 
narily," it begins, "from ten to eleven o'clock, unless he 
happened to be kept up by important news, in which case 
he would frequently remain at the War Department till 
one or two. He rose early. When he lived in the coun- 
try at the Soldiers' Home he would be up and dressed, 
eat his breakfast (which was extremely frugal, an egg y 
a piece of toast, coffee, etc.), and ride into Washington, 
all before eight o'clock. In the winter, at the White House, 
he was not quite so early. He did not sleep well, but spent 
a good while in bed. 'Tad' usually slept with him. He 
would lie around the office until he fell asleep, and Lincoln 
would shoulder him and take him off to bed. He pre- 
tended to begin business at ten o'clock in the morning, but 
in reality the ante-rooms and halls were full long before 
that hour — people anxious to get the first axe ground. He 
was extremely unmethodical ; it was a four years' struggle 
on Nicolay's part and mine to get him to adopt some sys- 
tematic rules. He would break through every regulation 
as fast as it was made. Anything that kept the people 
themselves away from him he disapproved, although they 
nearly annoyed the life out of him by unreasonable com- 
plaints and requests. He wrote very few letters, and did 
not read one in fifty that he received. At first we tried 
to bring them to his notice, but at last he gave the whole 
thing over to me, and signed, without reading them, the 
letters I wrote in his name. He wrote perhaps half-a- 
dozen a week himself — not more. Nicolay received mem- 


bers of Congress and other visitors who had business with 
the Executive office, communicated to the Senate and 
House the messages of the President, and exercised a gen- 
eral supervision over the business. I opened and read the 
letters, answered them, looked over the newspapers, super- 
vised the clerks who kept the records, and in Nicolay's 
absence did his work also. When the President had any 
rather delicate matter to manage at a distance from Wash- 
ington he rarely wrote, but sent Nicolay or me. The House 
remained full of people nearly all day. At noon the Pres- 
ident took a little lunch — a biscuit, a glass of milk in win- 
ter, some fruit or grapes in summer. He dined between 
five and six, and we went off to our dinner also. Before 
dinner was over, members and Senators would come back 
and take up the whole evening. Sometimes, though rarely, 
he shut himself up and would see no one. Sometimes he 
would run away to a lecture, or concert, or theatre for the 
sake of a little rest. He was very abstemious — ate less 
than any man I know. He drank nothing but water, not 
from principle but because he did not like wine or spirits. 
Once, in rather dark days early in the war, a temperance 
committee came to him and said that the reason we did 
not win was because our army drank so much whisky as 
to bring the curse of the Lord upon them, y He said it was 
rather unfair on the part of the aforesaid curse, as the 
other side drank more and worse whisky than ours did. 
He read very little. He scarcely ever looked into a news- 
paper unless I called his attention to an article on some 
special subject. He frequently said, T know more about 
it than any of them.' It is absurd to call him a modest 
man. No great man was ever modest. It was his intellec- 
tual arrogance and unconscious assumption of superiority 
that men like Chase and Sumner never could forgive. I 
believe that Lincoln is well understood by the people ; but 
there is a patent-leather, kid-glove set who know no more 
of him than an owl does of a comet blazing into his blink- 
ing eyes. Their estimates of him are in many cases dis- 
graceful exhibitions of ignorance and prejudice. Their 
effeminate natures shrink instinctively from the contact 


of a great reality like Lincoln's character. I consider 
Lincoln republicanism incarnate — with all its faults and 
all its virtues. As, in spite of some rudeness, republican- 
ism is the sole hope of a sick world, so Lincoln, with all 
his foibles, is the greatest character since Christ." 

Bancroft's eulogy on Lincoln never pleased the latter's 
life-long friends — those who knew him so thoroughly and 
well. February 16, 1866, David Davis, who had heard 
it, wrote me : "You will see Mr. Bancroft's oration before 
this reaches you. It is able, but Mr. Lincoln is in the 
background. His analysis of Mr. Lincoln's character is 
superficial. It did not please me. How did it satisfy you ?" 
On the 22d he again wrote: "Mr. Bancroft totally mis- 
conceived Mr. Lincoln's character in applying 'unsteadi- 
ness' and confusion to it. Mr. Lincoln grew more steady 
and resolute, and his ideas were never confused. If there 
were any changes in him after he got here they were for 
the better. I thought him always master of his subject. 
He was a much more self-possessed man than I thought. 
He thought for himself, which is a rare quality nowadays. 
How could Bancroft know anything about Lincoln except 
as he judged of him as the public do? He never saw 
him, and is himself as cold as an icicle. I should never 
have selected an old Democratic politician, and that one 
from Massachusetts, to deliver an eulogy on Lincoln." ' 

In 1863 Mr. Lincoln was informed one morning that 
among the visitors in the ante-room of the White House 
was a man who claimed to be his relative. He walked 
out and was surprised to find his boyhood friend and 
-cousin, Dennis Hanks. The latter had come to see his 
distinguished relative on a rather strange mission. A num- 
ber of persons living in Coles County, in Illinois, offended 
at the presence and conduct of a few soldiers who were at 
home from the war on furlough at the town of Charleston, 
had brought about a riot, in which encounter several of the 
latter had been killed. Several of the civilian participants 
who had acted as leaders in the strife had been arrested and 
sent to Fort McHenry or some other place of confinement 

5 Original footnote. 



equally as far from their homes. The leading lawyers 
and politicians of central Illinois were appealed to, but they 
and all others who had tried their hands had been signally 
unsuccessful in their efforts to secure the release of the 
prisoners. Meanwhile some one of a sentimental turn had 
conceived the idea of sending garrulous old Dennis Hanks 
to Washington, fondly believing that his relationship to the 
President might in this last extremity be of some avail. 
The novelty of the project secured its adoption by the pris- 
oners' friends, and Dennis, arrayed in a suit of new clothes, 
set out for the national capital. I have heard him describe 
this visit very minutely. How his appearance in Wash- 
ington and his mission struck Mr. Lincoln can only be 
imagined. The President, after listening to him and learn- 
ing the purpose of his visit, retired to an adjoining room 
and returned with an extremely large roll of papers 
labelled, "The Charleston Riot Case," which he carefully 
untied and gravely directed his now diplomatic cousin to 
read. Subsequently, and as if to continue the joke, he sent 
him down to confer with the Secretary of War. He soon 
returned from the latter's office with the report that the 
head of the War Department could not be found ; and it was 
well enough that he did not meet that abrupt and often- 
times demonstrative official. In the course of time, how- 
ever, the latter happened in at the Executive Mansion, and 
there, in the presence of Dennis, the President sought to 
reopen the now noted Charleston case. Adopting Mr. 
Hanks' version, the Secretary, with his characteristic plain- 
ness of speech, referring to the prisoners, declared that 

"every d d one of them should be hung." Even the 

humane and kindly inquiry of the President, "If these men 
should return home and become good citizens, who would 
be hurt?" failed to convince the distinguished Secretary 
that the public good could be promoted by so doing. The 
President not feeling willing to override the judgment of 
his War Secretary in this instance, further consideration 
of the case ceased, and his cousin returned to his home in 
Illinois with his mission unaccomplished. 

(The subsequent history of these riot cases I believe is 


that the prisoners were returned to Illinois to be tried in 
the State Courts there ; and that by successive changes 
of venue and continuances the cases were finally worn out.) 
Dennis retained a rather unfavorable impression of Mr. 
Stanton, whom he described as a "frisky little Yankee with 
a short coat-tail." "I asked Abe," he said to me once, 
"why he didn't kick him out. I told him he was too fresh 
altogether." Lincoln's answer was, "If I did, Dennis, 
it would be difficult to find another man to fill his place." 
The President's cousin 6 sat in the office during the endless 
interviews that take place between the head of the nation and 
the latter's loyal subjects. He saw modesty and obscurity 
mingling with the arrogance of pride and distinction. One 
day an attractive and handsomely dressed woman called to 
procure the release from prison of a relative in whom she 
professed the deepest interest. She was a good talker, and 
her winning ways seemed to be making a deep impression 
on the President. After listening to her story he wrote a 
few lines on a card, enclosing it in an envelope and direct- 
ing her to take it to the Secretary of War. Before sealing 
it he showed it to Dennis. It read : "This woman, dear 
Stanton, is a little smarter than she looks to be." She had, 
woman-like, evidently overstated her case. Before night 
another woman called, more humble in appearance, more 
plainly clad. It was the old story. Father and son both 
in the army, the former in prison. Could not the latter be 
discharged from the army and sent home to help his 
mother? A few strokes of the pen, a gentle nod of the 
head, and the little woman, her eyes filling with tears and 
expressing a grateful acknowledgment her tongue could 
not utter, passed out. 

6 "During this visit," said Herndon in a footnote, "Mr. Lincoln 
presented Dennis with a silver watch, which the latter still re- 
tains as a memento alike of the donor and his trip to Washington." 



great panorama of the war it will interest the reader and 
no doubt aid him greatly in drawing the portrait of Lincoln 
to call up for the purpose two friends of his, whose testi- 
mony is not only vivid and minute, but for certain reasons 
unusually appropriate and essential. The two were de- 
voted and trusted friends of Lincoln; and while neither 
held office under him, both were offered and both declined 
the same. That of itself ought not to be considered as 
affecting or strengthening their statements, and yet we 
sometimes think that friends who are strong enough to aid 
us, and yet declining our aid, take care of themselves, are 
brave enough to tell us the truth. The two friends of 
Lincoln here referred to are Joshua F. Speed and Leonard 
Swett. In quoting them I adhere strictly to their written 
statements now in my possession. The former, under date 
of December 6, 1866, says : "Mr. Lincoln was so unlike 
all the men I had ever known before or seen or known 
since that there is no one to whom I can compare him. In 
all his habits of eating, sleeping, reading, conversation, 
and study he was, if I may so express it, regularly irreg- 
ular; that is, he had no stated time for eating, no fixed 
time for going to bed, none for getting up. No course of 
reading was chalked out. He read law, history, philosophy, 
or poetry; Burns, Byron, Milton, or Shakespeare and the 
newspapers, retaining them all about as well as an ordinary 
man would any one of them who made only one at a time 
his study. I once remarked to him that his mind was a 
wonder to me ; that impressions were easily made upon it 
and never effaced. 'No,' said he, 'you are mistaken; I 


am slow to learn, and slow to forget that which I have 
learned. My mind is like a piece of steel — very hard to 
scratch anything on it, and almost impossible after you get 
it there to rub it out.' I give this as his own illustration of 
the character of his mental faculties ; it is as good as any 
I have seen from anyone. 

"The beauty of his character was its entire simplicity. 
He had no affectation in anything. True to nature, true to 
himself, he was true to everybody and everything around 
him. When he was ignorant on any subject, no matter 
how simple it might make him appear, he was always will- 
ing to acknowledge it. His whole aim in life was to be 
true to himself and being true to himself he could be false 
to no one. 

"He had no vices, even as a young man. Intense thought 
with him was the rule and not, as with most of us, the 
exception. He often said that he could think better after 
breakfast, and better walking than sitting, lying, or stand- 
ing. His world-wide reputation for telling anecdotes and 
telling them so well was in my judgment necessary to his 
very existence. Most men who have been great students, 
such as he was, in their hours of idleness have taken to 
the bottle, to cards or dice. He had no fondness for any 
of these. Hence he sought relaxation in anecdotes. So 
far as I now remember of his study for composition, it was 
to make short sentences and a compact style. Illustrative 
of this it might be well to state that he was a great 
admirer of the style of John C. Calhoun. I remember 
reading to him one of Mr. Calhoun's speeches in reply 
to Mr. Clay in the Senate, in which Mr. Clay had quoted 
precedent. Mr. Calhoun replied (I quote from memory) 
that 'to legislate upon precedent is but to make the error 
of yesterday the law of today.' Lincoln thought that was 
a great truth and grandly uttered. 

"Unlike all other men, there was entire harmony be- 
tween his public and private life. He must believe he was 
right, and that he had truth and justice with him, or he 
was a weak man ; but no man could be stronger if he 
thought he was right. 


"His familiar conversations were like his speeches and 
letters in this: that while no set speech of his (save the 
Gettysburg address) will be considered as entirely artistic 
and complete, yet, when the gems of American literature 
come to be selected, as many will be culled from Lincoln's 
speeches as from any American orator. So of his conver- 
sation, and so of his private correspondence; all abound 
in gems. 

"My own connection or relation with Mr. Lincoln dur- 
ing the war has so often been commented on, and its ex- 
tent so often enlarged upon, I feel impelled to state that 
during his whole administration he never requested me to 
do anything, except in my own State, and never much in 
that except to advise him as to what measures and policy 
would be most conducive to the growth of a healthy Union 

"My own opinion of the history of the Emancipation 
Proclamation is that Mr. Lincoln foresaw the necessity for 
it long before he issued it. He was anxious to avoid it, and 
came to it only when he saw that the measure would sub- 
tract from its labor, and add to our army quite a number 
of good fighting men. I have heard of the charge of du- 
plicity against him by certain Western members of Con- 
gress. I never believed the charge, because he has told 
me from his own lips that the charge was false. I, who 
knew him so well, could never after that credit the report. 
wVt first I was opposed to the Proclamation, and so told him. 
I remember well our conversation on the subject. He 
seemed to treat it as certain that I would recognize the 
wisdom of the act when I should see the harvest of good 
which we would ere long glean from it. In that con- 
versation he alluded to an incident in his life, long passed, 
when he was so much depressed that he almost contem- 
plated suicide. At the time of his deep depression he said 
to me that he had 'done nothing to make any human being 
remember that he had lived/ and that to connect his name 
with the events transpiring in his day and generation, and 
so impress himself upon them as to link his name with 
something that would redound to the interest of his fellow 


man, was what he desired to live for. He reminded me of 
that conversation, and said with earnest emphasis, 'I believe 
that in this measure [meaning his Proclamation] my fond- 
est hope will be realized/ Over twenty years had passed 
between the two conversations. 

"The last interview but one I had with him was about 
ten days prior to his last inauguration. Congress was 
drawing to a close ; it had been an important session ; much 
attention had to be given to the important bills he was 
signing ; a great war was upon him and the country ; visi- 
tors were coming and going to the President with their 
varying complaints and grievances from morning till night 
with almost as much regularity as the ebb and flow of the 
tide ; and he was worn down in health and spirits. On 
this occasion I was sent for, to come and see him. In- 
structions were given that when I came I should be ad- 
mitted. When I entered his office it was quite full, and 
many more — among them not a few Senators and members 
of Congress — still waiting. As soon as I was fairly inside, 
the President remarked that he desired to see me as soon 
as he was through giving audiences, and that if I had 
nothing to do I could take the papers and amuse myself 
in that or any other way I saw fit till he was ready. In the 
room, when I entered, I observed sitting near the fireplace, 
dressed in humble attire, two ladies modestly waiting their 
turn. One after another of the visitors came and went, 
each bent on his own particular errand, some satisfied and 
others evidently displeased at the result of their mission. 
The hour had arrived to close the door against all further 
callers. No one was left in the room now except the Presi- 
dent, the two ladies, and me. With a rather peevish and 
fretful air he turned to them and said, 'Well, ladies, what 
can I do for you V They both commenced to speak at once. 
From what they said he soon learned that one was the wife 
and the other the mother of two men imprisoned for re- 
sisting the draft in western Pennsylvania. 'Stop/ said he, 
'don't say any more. Give me your petition.' The old lady 
responded, 'Mr. Lincoln, we've got no petition; we 
couldn't write one and had no money to pay for writing 


one, and I thought best to com